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$13 million for Raleigh Street project OK'd in Martinsburg

April 23, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Legislation that would provide $13 million in needed funding for the extension of North Raleigh Street to Edwin Miller Boulevard in Martinsburg has cleared the U.S. Senate, Sens. Robert C. Byrd and Jay Rockefeller announced on Tuesday.

With the Senate's 88-2 vote last week, House Bill 1195 now is bound for a House-Senate conference to resolve differences in the legislation that each chamber's lawmakers passed, officials said.

"I don't believe (the conference) has been scheduled yet," Byrd spokesman John Bray said Tuesday. "I would expect the conference to move forward in a timely fashion."

If approved by the president, the SAFETEA-LU Technical Corrections Act of 2008 would transfer a $13 million allocation secured in 2005 for the proposed Martinsburg bypass project to the Raleigh Street extension. The extension project is expected to help relieve congestion along North Queen Street and give emergency responders an alternative north-south route in Martinsburg. It also is expected to improve access to City Hospital and Interstate 81, officials have said.

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Even with final approval of the money, Martinsburg Mayor George Karos said on Tuesday that the project would require an additional $2 million to $3 million, but he believed that funding gap could be closed without much difficulty.

"There's no doubt whatsoever," Karos said.

"I am very pleased that the Senate has acted on this important legislation," said Byrd, D-W.Va., in a news release on Tuesday. "This project will help to create jobs and will play an important role in alleviating congestion in and around Martinsburg."

In a news release from Byrd's office Tuesday, Rockefeller noted that the project was important to attract new businesses to the area and relieving congestion in the growing Berkeley County seat.

"Beyond improving transportation for folks in Martinsburg, this project will also bring good-paying and much-needed construction jobs to the region," Rockefeller said

"I can't tell you how elated I am," Karos said. The mayor, unopposed in his bid for a third, four-year term in June's municipal election, publicly thanked the senators for their effort and lauded the cooperation of city, county, state and federal officials who supported the long-anticipated project.

The 1.2-mile connector was jump-started by a $10 million allocation also announced by Byrd and Rockefeller in 2005. The project has been eyed by the city for more than 20 years, Karos said.

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