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Growth drives road upgrades

March 06, 2006|By ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

There's a crop coming up along Delmar Orchard Road in Martinsburg, but it's not apples.

More than 2,060 houses are expected to be built along this once ambling, narrow country lane within the next five years, according to the city's recently adopted West Side Comprehensive Development Plan.

Those homes would sit on 850 acres in three subdivisions.

"When you look at all those properties put together, there's going to be a very short piece of Delmar Orchard Road where there's not going to be any development," said Bob Amtower, district manager for the West Virginia Division of Highways.

The city expects to add more than 10,000 residents on the 1,100 acres west of Interstate 81 that it has annexed from Berkeley County since 2001.

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More than 200 lots have been completed in the Gallery, a 292-acre subdivision of town houses and single-family houses on what once was a rolling field of grazing land, said Tim Shaw, co-owner of Orchard Development Co.

Shaw said as many as 1,050 houses could fill the Gallery.

Last month, city officials received a petition of more than 100 signatures from residents of the Hollis Manor subdivison, asking that road improvements along Delmar Orchard Road and near Tuscarora Pike be made before the developments are completed.

City Planning Director Mike Covell said that is the plan for the road that is neither uniform nor consistent.

"We aren't trying to turn Delmar Orchard Road into a big monster for all kinds of new traffic," Covell said.

He said the city's planning department, the state highway division and developers have been working to complete traffic improvements.

"You'll see improvements before any of these developers put up any houses," Amtower said.

The proposed work is based on the results of traffic engineering studies, Covell said.

"We have the developer, at their cost, perform traffic engineering studies to analyze existing and future conditions, and from that, the city and the state get the developer to make commitments ... to address areas that get shown as problem parts on their study," Covell said.

Delmar Orchard Road will become a 24-foot-wide paved road with paved shoulders from Tuscarora Pike to W.Va. 45 with several improvements, including the softening of a 90-degree hook in the road east of Orchard View Intermediate School that disrupts motorists' sightlines, Amtower said.

More than $2 million in road upgrades on 5,500 feet of roadway will be paid for by Toll Brothers Inc., which is building Martinsburg Station, an 895-unit subdivision on the west side of Delmar Orchard Road across from the Gallery, said Tom Sayre, the company's senior land development manager for its Western Division.

"We want the front entrance to be there," Sayre said. "We use things like that for marketing. We want people to drive down and say 'look at this, let's go in here.'"

The first 2,500 feet of the project is expected to be completed by September, Sayre said.

Covell trumpets the construction of Klee Drive, a mile-long, three-lane road that will bisect the Gallery and link Delmar Orchard Road to W.Va. 45 less than half a mile from I-81.

"That's probably one of the most significant contributions toward what we see as increases in traffic," Covell said. "It is a major step toward improving the functionality of this undeveloped frontier area."

The road, which will not be accessible from the subdivision's individual lots, is being constructed at a cost of $250 per foot by Orchard Development according to the city and state highway division's specifications, company co-owner Bob Adams said.

"It's a regional road, not an internal subdivision street," Covell said.

Shaw said the company has built a temporary construction route that empties onto W.Va. 45 to keep much of the traffic off Delmar Orchard Road.

Future road improvements might include traffic lights and turning lanes from W.Va. 45, Shaw said.

"This is a template which we will see repeated with development in the future," Covell said.

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