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Delegate, school officials irked over missing traffic light

September 10, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Del. Craig Blair said Thursday he will be one of many people who will be upset if someone dies because the state Division of Highways does not install a traffic light at the intersection of U.S. 11 and Spring Mills Road.

Traffic at the light has become heavier than normal since Spring Mills Middle School opened last month, Blair said.

Blair, R-Berkeley, spoke during a joint meeting Thursday afternoon with members of the Berkeley County Board of Education, Berkeley County Commission, local legislators and a Division of Highways official.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Manny Arvon wrote a letter to DOH in July stressing the need for a traffic light at that intersection.

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"The safety of our children is our first and foremost concern and should be shared by the West Virginia Division of Highways," Arvon wrote. "Failure to install a traffic light at this dangerous intersection puts our students and citizens at risk."

Arvon asked in the letter that the light be installed by the first day of school, but Bill Hartman, with DOH, said a light probably would not be in place this year.

Hartman said the traffic volume at the intersection likely warrants a light, but that a DOH traffic study must first be conducted. Installing a traffic light generally costs around $100,000, he said.

Arvon said that the school system has had a good working relationship for the most part with the DOH - the state has installed bus loops at schools, he said.

Sometimes, however, Arvon said he feels like "the ball gets dropped."

Arvon said that several years ago he updated the state on future school construction projects, which he felt gave DOH officials plenty of time to adequately prepare.

School officials are beginning to build Gerrardstown Elementary School, which is the seventh school to be built in eight years.

State officials told the school board that they had to build an acceleration and deceleration lane on a public highway, but Arvon said that is not an appropriate use for voter-approved school bond money.

At Orchard View Intermediate School, which opened in 2002, school officials had to take out a sharp curve in Delmar Orchard Road to make it safe for buses.

DOH officials refused to reimburse the school board for the cost, Arvon said.

Hartman replied that no special state funding exists for the DOH to help with school projects.

There are projects in all of the state's 55 counties vying for attention.

"We just can't fund everything that's in the state," Hartman said.

When pressed by County Commissioner-elect Ron Collins and Blair, Hartman pledged that a traffic light will be installed at the intersection. He also said he will personally make sure a traffic study begins as soon as possible.

The intersection is off Interstate 81's Spring Mills exit, south of Falling Waters, W.Va.

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