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Meetings seek input on future transportation needs

June 14, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

By DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - By the year 2030, another 150,000 people are expected to live in Washington County and in Berkeley and Jefferson counties in the Eastern Panhandle.

The number of jobs in the same region are expected to increase by 79,000 during that time, officials say.

With the growth that is expected, officials are trying to determine how everyone is going to get around.

In three public meetings this week, local residents and elected officials will get the chance to offer input on what type of highway and other transportation systems they think will be needed in coming years to serve the growing population.

The format for the three meetings will be the same and each one will begin at 7 p.m.

The first meeting will be Tuesday at James Rumsey Technical Institute near Martinsburg. The second meeting will be Wednesday at the Jefferson High School Ninth Grade School in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., and the third meeting will be Thursday at Frostburg State University in Hagerstown.

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Berkeley County Commission member Howard Strauss, who plans to attend the meeting at James Rumsey Technical Institute, said his first priority will be getting an update on the widening of W.Va. 9 in Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Although work has started on the project, there has been concern about its pace.

Strauss said he also wants to discuss the possibility of constructing a bypass between W.Va. 9 and Interstate 81.

The bypass would help traffic get from W.Va. 9 to I-81 efficiently without being slowed by congestion in and around Martinsburg, Strauss said.

There has been discussion about starting the bypass from W.Va. 9 and extending it over land along Grapevine Road near the old Berkeley County landfill. The commissioners would like to see the bypass connect with I-81 near the Quad Graphics plant, Strauss said.

Strauss said he also would like to see some type of southern loop of the bypass that would allow W.Va. 9 traffic to move easily from the highway to points south around the Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport.

In Jefferson County, there has been interest in building a western bypass around Charles Town, W.Va., and Ranson, W.Va.

Without a western bypass to reach points north, south and east of Charles Town and Ranson, motorists will have to drive through already clogged streets in the two towns to reach their destinations, Jefferson County officials have said.

Transportation officials should start planning a route now for the road to avoid complicated issues like how to acquire land for the project, said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

The talk about highway needs is part of a Long Range Multi-Modal Transportation Plan Update being prepared by the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization.

More public meetings are scheduled for the fall and a transportation plan is expected to be adopted by next year, officials said.

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