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City pushes ahead on Raleigh extension

July 13, 2005|by CANDICE BOSLEY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A unanimous decision made Tuesday by the Martinsburg City Council is an attempt to ensure the time it takes to extend Raleigh Street is not extended any longer, officials said.

With no assurance from the state that the project would be included in a six-year transportation plan, City Council members decided to pay for an environmental study and a preliminary design study on its own.

That, city officials were told, might help with acquiring additional funding more promptly, Mayor George Karos said.

Doing the environmental and design studies likely will cost about $2 million to $3 million. Overall, the Raleigh Street extension project is expected to cost about $17.4 million.

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Extending the city street northward is an idea that has been discussed for decades. Recently, it's been on people's minds again, Karos said.

"I know there's been a lot of rumors flying around town ... some true, some not true," Karos said at the beginning of a presentation about the project.

He recommended that council members set aside the funding for the two studies, once the city knows its unencumbered balance. His suggestion passed with a 6-0 vote.

The extension will allow for more economic development, provide another north-south route through town and - most importantly, Karos said - will offer another route for emergency traffic.

Traffic now can be backed up through the city at certain times of the day. If a serious wreck on Interstate 81 causes traffic to be diverted downtown, tractor-trailers and cars can be backed up for miles on the city's streets.

"What would happen if the (Queen Street) underpass was closed? There'd be no other way. You'd have traffic backed up who knows how far," Karos said.

Four routes have been proposed for the extension.

All four routes begin where Raleigh Street now dead-ends at the intersection with Race Street, and would end at the intersection of Edwin Miller Boulevard and U.S. 11, near a new CVS drug store.

Karos said he prefers Option 4, which does not affect Oatesdale Park, a Little League baseball field complex. That option, however, crosses through two historical districts, while Options 1, 2 and 3 do not, according to written information about the project prepared by the West Virginia Division of Highways.

Option 4 would affect a small corner of the Boyd Avenue Historical District and the western edge of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and Related Industries Historic District.

The extension would affect three to four businesses and zero to three homes, depending on which route was selected. Three to 5 acres of farmland would be affected, as would about an acre of wetland, according to information provided by DOH in January 2003.

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