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New road should open in 2006

November 16, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

If all goes according to plan, a new four-lane W.Va. 9 should open in the fall of 2006, according to Randy Epperly, a deputy state highway engineer in Charleston, W.Va.

The new road, which will not incorporate any portions of the existing W.Va. 9, should reduce the number of car accidents and help alleviate heavy traffic caused by commuters and residents, Epperly said.

Work on the first section, in Bardane, is on schedule and bids most likely will be solicited by the end of this year for three sections from Kearneysville to the Charles Town bypass, he said.

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Plans should be finished next spring for the section from Kearneysville to Martinsburg, and construction is expected to start then or in the summer.

The entire 10-mile project is expected to cost around $100 million. Cars will be allowed on each section of the road as it is finished, Epperly said.

Five access points, in the form of on- and off-ramps, and one intersection will dot the new four-lane. Unlike the existing two-lane, the four-lane will not have any driveways or small business entrances off of it, Epperly said.

Heavy use of the road by commuters and residents, combined with a high rate of traffic accidents with injuries and fatalities, make finishing the project a state priority, officials have said.

Statistics regarding accidents are measured in how many accidents occur for every 1 million vehicle miles logged on a road.

The rate of accidents with an injury on W.Va. 9 is 44 percent above the state average for a two-lane road, and the rate of fatalities is 76 percent above average, Epperly said.

Overall, W.Va. 9 consists of three separate sections: One connects Martinsburg to Charles Town, a second connects Charles Town to the Virginia state line and a third connects Martinsburg to Berkeley Springs.

Plans are in place to expand the section that connects Charles Town to Virginia.

Once that project is finished, along with the new four-lane from Martinsburg to Charles Town, highways officials hope to improve the westward section to Berkeley Springs, Epperly said.

West Virginia State Police First Sgt. Deke Walker drives along W.Va. 9 every day to get to work. Traffic at certain times of the day can be exceptionally heavy, which makes it difficult to pull out or turn left at some areas, he said.

When he first moved to this area 25 years ago, Walker said, there was talk of upgrading W.Va. 9.

"And they should have done it," he said.

Although he said he believes the number of wrecks will be reduced once the new road is complete, Walker said he cannot be sure.

Other sections of W.Va. 9 are bad, but Walker said the section from Martinsburg to Charles Town is the most dangerous and the most congested.

Controversy was not absent from the plan for the four-lane, which Epperly said was first officially proposed in the early 1990s. Several people objected, saying the road would be detrimental to historical property in the area.

After listening to concerns, highway officials picked a route that required the least amount of property acquisitions, did not affect a wetland behind Baker Heights and had the least impact on historic properties, Epperly said.

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