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Project hazardous to auto business, man says

November 28, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

BARDANE, W.VA.

charlestown@herald-mail.com

The new four-lane W.Va. 9 taking shape through the Bardane area in Jefferson County might look impressive to some people.

It's seen by many as a relief route that will alleviate traffic congestion faced by motorists every day on one of the Eastern Panhandle's busiest two-lane roads.

But Chris Stewart is not impressed.

Stewart said business has been going downhill at his shop - Stewart's Auto Repair - because of highway construction that has forced his customers to weave through a confusing detour to reach his building.

Stewart said he has tried to deal with the situation by placing a temporary sign along the existing W.Va. 9 that directs people through the detour to his business. In some cases, Stewart said he will give customers directions to his business before they come for an appointment or meet them at a location and lead them back to his place.

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Stewart said an attorney told him that he could look into the matter, but it would cost about $10,000.

"I said I'm trying to make 10 grand, how can I give you 10 grand? My business has been ruined," Stewart said.

A state Department of Highways official said the state did the best it could under the circumstances.

Lucas Gagnon said he believes the detour Stewart had to use was manageable. Gagnon, the project engineer for the state Department of Highways, said the entrance to Stewart's Auto Repair was moved west about 100 yards.

Had the detour not been designed the way it was, customers going in and out of the car repair business would have had to drive over a steep incline where the new highway is being built, Gagnon said.

"We did everything we could to help him out," Gagnon said.

Stewart's shop is along W.Va. 9 near the intersection with Philip Avenue. The detour extended to Stewart's shop allows his customers to drive from W.Va. 9, over the new four-lane W.Va. 9 being built, and back to his shop.

Stewart complained about the rough terrain his customers had to drive through to get to his shop and said at one point his customers had to use a "path" to get to his business.

Jeff Smith, a Snap-On Tools representative who was at Stewart's shop one day, agreed that the detour was confusing.

"When they first changed things around, I didn't know if Chris was still here or not," Smith said.

Stewart said he can sometimes get two to 10 new customers a week, and business always picks up during colder weather because people are getting their cars ready for winter.

"That went to zero and it's been that way for three months now," Stewart said in a recent interview.

Stewart said he thinks the state should have either bought him out, relocated him or should have been more specific about the situation he was about to face.

Gagnon said he could not comment about those issues, saying that someone in the highways department dealing with right-of-way issues would have to comment on that.

Another highways official dealing in that area said he would look into the situation.

At any rate, Gagnon said relief is on the way for Stewart.

Besides the four-lane W.Va. 9 being built past Stewart's shop, crews ar building an access road beside the highway that will allow customers to reach Stewart's shop.

The access road can be entered by Wiltshire Road or the northern tip of the Charles Town Bypass, Gagnon said.

The section from Wiltshire Road to Stewart's business should be open sometime this week, allowing Stewart to do away with his temporary detour, Gagnon said.

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