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Capito, Cino hear gripes about Panhandle traffic

August 12, 2006|by TARA REILLY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Heavy traffic in Martinsburg clogs the city's downtown.

Improved access from Tabler Station Road in Berkeley County to a nearby business park could boost economic development.

Unsafe travel on W.Va. 9 is an issue plaguing Jefferson and Berkeley counties.

Acting U.S. Secretary of Transportation Maria Cino and U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., heard those and other transportation concerns Friday from Eastern Panhandle government officials at a meeting in Berkeley County's Dunn Building.

The concerns dealt mostly with bustling growth taking its toll on the region's roads and creating severe safety issues.

"I heard ya," Cino said after the meeting. "I heard ya loud and clear."

Plans have been drafted to fix the problems, but finding the millions needed to pay for the projects could be more difficult.

Cino said federal, state and local officials should continue to work together and for funding to make the projects happen.

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Cino said she recognized the population explosion in Berkeley County changed from when she visited in the 1980s.

The county has gained 34,141 people from 1990 to 2005, from a population of 59,253 to 93,294, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It's been the fastest-growing county in West Virginia, followed by Jefferson County, for the last couple of years, officials said.

Michael M. Covell, city engineer and planner for Martinsburg, explained the need to extend Raleigh Street to relieve congestion on Queen Street (U.S. 11) in the city.

The extension also would improve police, fire and emergency services routes, and allow for more commercial, industrial economic and housing development, he said.

The $33.5 million extension would run from Raleigh Street's intersection with Race Street to Edwin Miller Boulevard.

The extension would run from north to south, as does North Queen Street.

According to information provided Friday by Covell, $12.75 million has been generated so far for the project, $20.75 million short of the total cost.

"We're still finding a gap that we will find a way to clear, but we need help," Covell said.

Jefferson County Commissioner Jane Tabb spoke about dangerous conditions on W.Va. 9 that are killing too many of the area's young people.

Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Bob Crawford said improved access is needed off Tabler Station Road to the business park there, and Del. Vic Roberts, R-Berkeley, talked about traffic problems in south Berkeley County on the corridor along W.Va. 51 west to U.S. 11 to W.Va. 51 east.

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