Bypass meeting draws crowd

September 15, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - About 150 people attended a public meeting Tuesday night at the Berkeley Springs High School auditorium in support of a bypass around Berkeley Springs.

The Morgan County Commission announced its plan for the meeting Aug. 26 and asked for written citizen support of the construction of the bypass.

The volume of pass-through tractor-trailer traffic on U.S. 522, the thoroughfare through town that connects Interstate 70 and Interstate 81, has been a concern for residents and businesses.


In order to ease traffic problems, an eight-mile bypass is planned by state and local officials, but special federal funding is required for the estimated construction cost of $83 million.

Commissioner Bob Ford said the commission has worked toward getting a bypass since 2002, and after many letters to federal officials and meetings with West Virginia Commissioner of Highways Paul Mattox and Gov. Joe Manchin, "the bypass is now a high priority," but it will not be scheduled until special federal funding becomes available.

Ford said "if constituents write letters, the federal officials will take notice."

Morgan County Commissioner Tommy Swaim said a letter-writing workshop would take place in the school cafeteria after the meeting.

"Write a letter tonight, or if you can't, take some home and send them back to the commission. Put any strong feeling you want in your letter, and we can make a start tonight," Swaim said.

Handouts were distributed that included instructions on how to fill out the form letter addressed to the Morgan County Commission. The commission asked that a short paragraph or two be written on the form letter as to why the bypass was needed. The handout gave examples of added economic development, traffic congestion, safety and population growth.

Ford said the form letters should be sent to the commission office.

"We will make copies of your letter, so we can take them to Washington, D.C. We can hand carry the letters because they are addressed to us," Ford said.

Ford said the support letters will be hand-delivered by the commissioners to the three W.Va. federal officials in Washington - U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito.

He said he hoped the commission receives at least 1,000 support letters.

Glen Stotler, county commission president said, "All the pieces are in place except for the funding - we need you so we can show federal officials they need to get the special funding for this project."

Contact information of all Morgan County state and federal officials was also handed out with the suggestion that the officials be contacted by e-mail to show further support of the bypass.

Bill Clark, Morgan County administrator, said many people attended the letter-writing workshop after the meeting.

"People wrote the letter right on the spot and took four or five copies with them for their friends," he said.

He said the commission started receiving support letters last week from those who would not be able to attend the meeting.

A few people in the audience attempted to draw Ford into a discussion about the building of the bypass, but Ford said he only would answer questions regarding the letter-writing campaign in support of the bypass.

Ford said the Commission office will receive support letters for the next 30 days.

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