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Berkeley officials object to tolls on I-81

November 05, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Traffic - including that heading south over the mountain into Virginia and that heading north over the Potomac River into Maryland - was the focus of the Berkeley County Commission meeting Thursday afternoon.

The commissioners voted 2-0 to send a letter to The Maryland State Highway Administration noting their objections to a plan to put toll booths on Interstate 81 in Maryland.

Tolls would hinder commuters who drive to Maryland or Pennsylvania to work, and might prevent shoppers from heading north, Commissioners Howard Strauss and Steve Teufel said.

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They also objected to the toll booths and a related plan to possibly install a truck weigh station along the interstate, saying the idling cars and tractor-trailers could cause already-high ground-level ozone levels to increase even more. Traffic also could back up on U.S. 11 in Falling Waters, W.Va., and Marlowe, W.Va., because of drivers avoiding the toll booths.

If Maryland installs toll booths, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia could follow suit, said Teufel, who opposed such an idea.

Del. John Overington, R-Berkeley, agreed, saying there's no need to start "toll wars."

Bob Crawford, executive director of the Berkeley County Development Authority, said that whenever he meets with a possible new client he touts the area's "commutability." A visit to the parking lot of any major employer in the region will reveal cars with license plates from all four states, he said.

In their letter, the commissioners will express their support for widening Interstate 81 from four to six lanes, but their opposition to having West Virginians help pay for it, they said.

Commissioners also discuss W.Va. 9


The commissioners also discussed W.Va. 9, which many commuters use to get to Virginia.

During a Rt. 9 Summit meeting in October, Virginia officials discussed heavy traffic on the road. According to written information from the summit, provided by the commissioners, traffic on Va. 9 has exceeded what was expected in the year 2015.

A plan to build a four-lane in West Virginia but not in Virginia will cause a bottleneck in traffic and further deteriorate the quality of life for residents of Hillsboro and other towns along the road, according to the written Rt. 9 Summit materials.

Virginia officials want West Virginia commuters to use U.S. 340 and Va. 7 instead of Rt. 9.

Mick Staton, a lobbyist who lives in Inwood, W.Va., and works in Washington, D.C., and Virginia, said that the U.S. 340-Va. 7 route is 12 miles and 10 minutes longer. He said a bypass around Hillsboro should be built.

There are no plans to widen Va. 9 or construct a bypass, but other measures are planned, according to a letter from Hillsboro Mayor Roger L. Vance.

"In fact, because of the unsafe and untenable conditions created by too much traffic, two additional traffic lights are soon to join three others along this stretch of Route 9 from West Virginia to its terminus at the four-lane Route 7," Vance wrote.

"Additional traffic-calming measures are coming in Hillsboro, where entering or exiting driveways or attempting to cross the street have become life threatening challenges and speeding tanker trucks are just a swerve away from causing a catastrophe," Vance wrote. "The good news is Hillsboro is determined to reclaim its 'Main Street' as part of a comprehensive effort to protect its citizens and preserve its heritage. The bad news is, for commuters a long slow trip will soon grow considerably slower."

Vance and others attributed much of the traffic to commuters who live in growing Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson, told the commissioners Thursday that another solution exists. Bringing jobs to the Eastern Panhandle would help limit the number of commuters, he said.

Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, said studies show more than 40 percent of the Panhandle's residents commute outside of their county of residence to work.

Del. Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Dale Manuel, a Jefferson County delegate who was elected Tuesday to serve as a Jefferson County commissioner, also attended the meeting.

On the W.Va. 9/Va. 9 issue, the commissioners voted to send a letter to U.S. Sens. Robert C. Byrd and John D. Rockefeller and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito expressing a desire that commuters be able to travel as fluidly as possible without any bottlenecks or other hindrances.

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