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W.Va. 9 project gets more federal support

January 27, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - An additional $11 million to help pay for increased costs of widening W.Va. 9 to four lanes has been approved by Congress and is awaiting President Bush's signature, federal officials said Monday.

Also included in the funding package is $350,000 to help the city of Charles Town extend a downtown revitalization project east on Washington Street to an area that includes the entrance to Charles Town Races & Slots and other businesses.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., included the $11 million for W.Va. 9 in a fiscal year 2004 transportation, treasury and general government operations bill.

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When asked whether Bush is expected to sign the bill, a state highways official declined to speculate Monday.

"We've been waiting. That's all I can tell you," said Dave Clevenger, an engineer with the state Division of Highways.

The cost of widening W.Va. 9 from two to four lanes from the Virginia line in Jefferson County west to Martinsburg was initially estimated to cost $135 million. The cost has risen to about $210 million, forcing state and federal officials to seek other sources of funding for the project.

One reason for the higher cost is increased development in areas where planners want to build the road, Clevenger said. That has increased the value of the land, meaning the highways department must pay more money for the property.

Not including the $11 million recently approved by Congress, Byrd has raised $110 million for W.Va. 9. The state matched 20 percent of those funds.

Highway department officials hope special federal funds and additional transportation money can be obtained to account for the rest of the money needed, Clevenger said.

"For each new mile of (W.Va.) 9 that we build, we save lives, we create hope and we expand job opportunities," Byrd said in a news release Monday. "A modern (W.Va. 9) will bring a brighter future for the Eastern Panhandle."

Last April, state and federal officials broke ground on a segment of the new four-lane road in Bardane, W.Va. The segment of road, about one-thirds of a mile long, is about 82 percent complete, Clevenger said.

The segment is a grading project, which means it will not be opened to traffic, Clevenger said.

The highways department expects to start three other segments of the four-lane road in the same area soon, Clevenger said. One of the segments runs from Bardane from Kearneysville, W.Va., and the other two extend east to the Charles Town Bypass.

Highway officials have said the project could be finished in fall 2006.

Construction crews recently completed the first phase of Charles Town's revitalization project, which included installing new sidewalks, street lamps, benches, planters, trees, crosswalks and other features in the downtown shopping area.

City officials want to extend the improvements into a busy commercial area on East Washington Street which includes the Turf Motel, the Towne House Restaurant and Motor Lodge and the entrance to Charles Town Races & Slots, Mayor Randy Hilton said.

The $350,000 will help pay for planning for the project and some construction, Hilton said.

The money, if approved, will make a total of $600,000 that has been set aside for the project.

Byrd and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., worked to secure the other $250,000 in federal support, Council member Matt Ward said.

The total cost of the project is unclear. Although the cost was estimated at about $1.3 million, that may change based on several factors, including what type of features city residents want to see in the revitalization, Ward said.

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