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If only all could cooperate

May 29, 2003|BY BOB MAGINNIS

Citizens' first response to two Eastern Panhandle cities' request for $42 million in federal funds will probably be something like "That's a lot of money." Their second reaction ought to be gratitude that two local governments have put together a plan to deal with growth over the next 25 years.

The request would pay for a bypass along the western edge of Charles Town and Ranson, extension of the MARC commuter train line into the planned Huntfield development and a variety of police, beautification and economic-development projects.

Officials of both towns knew something had to be done after 5,000 new homes were approved for Charles Town and another 5,000 were proposed in Ranson. Those two developments could increase Jefferson County's population by 25,000 by 2020 and add 80,000 vehicle trips to local roads each day. The potential for gridlock is great.

To prevent commuters from clogging streets on their way to work, the two cities' officials want to put an end-of-the-line MARC station in the Huntfield development. The bypass would keep those traveling north, south and east of the two cities off municipal streets already clogged with traffic.

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Other proposals would begin redevelopment of North Street, where a number of commercial buildings have been abandoned. Another $80,000 would help update the Charles Town Police Department's equipment, to enable officers to work more effectively.

Though the MARC proposal, at $8 million, isn't as pricey as the $30 million bypass project, it is local officials' top priority because it will keep roads free for local traffic and preserve air quality.

And while the bypass may not be funded immediately, putting it on the table now will allow local governments to keep development out of the road's path.

Are there some legitimate objections to this plan or parts of it? No doubt, but citizens ought to appreciate the fact that local officials are collaborating on a unified plan, as opposed to working separately on a hodge-podge of projects. If only all local governments could work as well together.

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