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Berkeley Co. to join I-81 corridor group

September 21, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County leaders have joined with officials in the six states along the Interstate 81 corridor in an effort to address common concerns about the highway's traffic volume and overall safety.

"I feel very confident that this coalition is going to be formed," said County Commissioner Ronald K. Collins, who attended a two-day conference in Carlisle, Pa., last week.

At the conference, Robert S. "Bob" Gordon, executive director of the Hagerstown/Eastern Panhandle Metropolitan Planning Organization (HEPMPO), was appointed to serve on a planning committee to develop a structure for a multi-state coalition, Collins said.

Carol A. Crabtree, executive director of the Eastern Panhandle Regional Planning and Development Council (Region 9), said the common thread of concern for I-81 from Tennessee to the Canadian border was aging infrastructure and the high volume of truck traffic.

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Collins said he was surprised to see trucking industry and railroad leaders "at the same table" and together interested in bringing about some relief for the highway.

"They realize the (traffic) capacity is full," Collins said.

In a joint announcement with state and federal officials, Norfolk Southern Corp. said in a news release posted Sept. 5 on its Web site that it had reached an agreement to enhance the railroad company's capability to transport "double-stacked" containers in western Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.

At the I-81 conference, Collins said he learned the railroad was exploring the possibility of establishing a terminal in the Hagerstown-Martinsburg area as part of capacity improvement efforts. Collins said a Berkeley County location in the Tablers Station Business Park, which is close to both I-81 and Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, and adjoins the Winchester & Western railroad, would be an ideal location.

"It would be a perfect opportunity," Collins said.

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