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Unger introduces bill to create Panhandle transportation panel

February 13, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Berkeley County senator said this week he is pushing for development of a local highway authority to raise money for new highway projects in the Eastern Panhandle.

Through the proposed Eastern Panhandle Highway Authority, local officials could identify other sources of money for highway projects instead of relying solely on state or federal funds, said Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.

Locating more funding for highway projects could significantly advance highway construction to meet transportation needs in the rapidly growing Eastern Panhandle, Unger said.

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"I hope to give Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan county residents the attention they deserve," Unger said in a press release Wednesday.

Unger said a local highway authority could raise money for road projects through grants or foundations.

The money could be used to make improvements to roads such as U.S. 11, U.S. 340, Interstate 81, U.S. 522 and W.Va. 9.Money obtained through the authority could be used to expedite the work on expanding W.Va. 9 to four lanes, Unger said.

Unger said a frustrating issue regarding the widening of W.Va. 9 is that predictions for construction starts on the road often miss the mark. A prediction will be made by state officials to start a part of the project in a particular season, only to have the construction start moved to the next season, Unger said.

"For six years I've been hearing that," Unger said.

The Eastern Panhandle Highway Authority also would work to enhance economic development and tourism along local highways, such as the development of bicycle paths along the roads, Unger said.

Under the proposal, the highway authority would be made up of nine voting members and three nonvoting members, Unger said.

Unger introduced a bill in the Senate on Thursday which would set up the authority, according to the state Legislature's Web site. If passed in the Senate, it would go to the House of Delegates for consideration.

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