Residents claim some roads in W.Va. already are problem areas

June 17, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

SHENANDOAH JUNCTION, W.VA. - A consultant's report says a two-lane section of U.S. 340 at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., is expected to be a "problem area" by 2030.

Jenny Thacker said the problem is already here.

Thacker, speaking at a transportation planning meeting at the Jefferson County High School Ninth Grade Center Wednesday night, said a traffic bottleneck that forms along the section of road is so bad she often has trouble getting to Harpers Ferry to pick up her children from a day care center.

"Is there anything that is being done? It's already a disaster," said Thacker, of Harpers Ferry.

Lewis Grimm, who is helping local governments put together a long-range transportation plan, said talks have been held on building a highway bypass in the area to alleviate traffic congestion.


"It's, unfortunately, a very long process," Grimm said, adding that construction of a road could take 12 years.

About 20 people came to a meeting at the school to give their input on what type of transportation systems are needed in Jefferson and Berkeley counties in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle and Washington County in coming years.

A transportation plan will be created by a local organization known as the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization, said Grimm, who works for Cambridge Systematics.

Cambridge Systematics has been hired by the local Metropolitan Planning Organization to be a consultant in the process.

The transportation planning process takes into account not only new highway systems, but other improvements such as bicycle and pedestrian routes, Grimm said.

Once the plan is completed, which could be in December, the projects will become part of transportation improvement programs in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia, Grimm said.

Grimm offered plenty of transportation challenges for the group to consider.

Given the population growth that is expected to occur in the region by 2030, traffic on some roads will more than double, Grimm said.

On W.Va. 9, there were about 7,600 car trips a day on the road at the West Virginia/Virginia line in Jefferson County in 2000, Grimm said. In 2030, that number is expected to increase by 130 percent to 17,500 car trips a day, Grimm said.

On Interstate 81 at the West Virginia/Virginia line in Berkeley County, there were 41,000 car trips a day in 2000. That number is expected to increase 71 percent to 70,000 car trips a day by 2030, Grimm said.

On U.S. 340, 20,900 cars traveled one section of the road every day in 2000. That number is expected to jump to 39,000 car trips a day by 2030, Grimm said.

Grimm said that, besides the two-lane section of U.S. 340 in Harpers Ferry, other sections of roads expected to be "problem areas" by 2030 include:

  • W.Va. 45 west of Shepherdstown, W.Va., to Martinsburg, W.Va.

  • W.Va. 51 west of Charles Town, W.Va., to Inwood, W.Va.

  • The remaining four-lane sections of I-81 north and south of Martinsburg.

  • W.Va. 9 west of Martinsburg.

  • U.S. 11 north and south of Martinsburg.

Like Thacker, Eugene Pearson was more frustrated over what is going on now on local roads.

Pearson, of Charles Town, told Grimm he did not understand why the new U.S. 340 bridge that was built over the Shenandoah River at Harpers Ferry was a two-lane and not a four-lane span.

The West Virginia Division of Highways wanted to build a four-lane span but the National Park Service wanted a two-lane bridge, Grimm said. After talks, it was decided a two-lane bridge would be built.

Pearson shook his head.

Wednesday's public meeting was one of three designed to get public input on local transportation needs.

The first meeting was held at James Rumsey Technical Institute on Tuesday. The final meeting will be held tonight at Frostburg State University's Hagerstown center.

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