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Berkeley Co. planners approve site plan near W.Va. 901 and Interstate 81

May 08, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - It seems the intersection of U.S. 11 and W.Va. 51 in southern Berkeley County has become an infamous benchmark for traffic congestion.

Berkeley County Planning Commission President Donald Fox on Monday evening half-jokingly indicated as much after commissioners approved yet another preliminary site plan at the convergence of W.Va. 901 and Interstate 81, with U.S. 11 only a few hundred yards away.

"If this intersection begins to look like Inwood, we know where you live," Fox told Allen Henry of Panhandle Builders & Excavating after approving a 127-town home development on about 35 acres. The project north of W.Va. 901 and west of I-81 also includes future commercial roads.

Before receiving approval, Henry said he had to go back and redo his plans for The Townes at Potomac Station three different times because of developments planned in the vicinity of his work there.

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"Everything that we know of is reflective of the traffic studies," said Henry, who assured commissioners in December that his Wal-Mart project - Spring Mills Towne Center - south and east of the I-81 exit, would be done properly.

At that time, Henry said more than $1 million in road improvements, including three traffic signals and additional traffic lanes, were part of a plan to address traffic concerns illustrated by a study his company had obtained.

On Monday, Fox wanted to be sure that the bigger picture was being considered and after the meeting said he hoped to get that message to state highway officials who will be touring the county with planning commissioners later this month. He also believes the state should plan ahead and secure additional right-of-way along spurs leading to the interstate to save money.

"We want (the state) to take a broader view also," Fox said. "When they give their approval, look at other work ... nobody's looking at the total product."

For the May 22 tour, commissioners decided to invite representatives of West Virginia's Congressional delegation in Washington and State Senate Transportation & Infrastructure Committee chairman John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, to join them.

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