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Martinsburg to study inland port pact

January 07, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The "Inland Port of Martinsburg-Berkeley County" may sound a little odd given there is no commercially viable waterway for shipping in the community, but there is plenty of capacity for planes, trains and automobiles.

The transportation modes -- Interstate 81, Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport, CSX and Winchester & Western railroads -- represent the "three legs of the stool" to establish such a waterless port that could spur substantial economic development, according to proponent Clarence E. "CEM" Martin.

"I think the potential is big," Martin said Wednesday of a concept that was proposed more than 10 years ago, but not fully studied since. An inland port designation could ultimately allow direct, international travel to the airport south of Martinsburg where Martin said U.S. Customs & Border Protection agents would have to be in place to monitor transportation and shipping activities.

"We are a natural (location) for the next line of outward growth for the metropolitan area," Martin said of a concept he attributed to Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

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An intergovernmental agreement, the first step to pitching the inland port district to state and federal officials for approval, is expected to be considered by Martinsburg City Council at its regular meeting tonight.

The Berkeley County Commission, Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport Authority and Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority also are expected to be asked to consider the proposed agreement.

Martin believes Rockefeller would be able to help obtain federal approval through his new appointment as Senate Commerce Committee chairman, and said feedback from the West Virginia Public Port Authority and Gov. Joe Manchin's administration has been positive.

In October 1997, Martin and Ken Green, then executive director of the Eastern Panhandle Region 9 Planning and Development Council, presented the inland port concept to the Berkeley County Commission.

Since then, Martin said proponents have not won support from previous governors for a feasibility study.

Martin said the inland port designation could help revitalize the historic B&O roundhouse and shop complex in Martinsburg and ease travel for the 167th Airlift Wing of the Air National Guard based at the airport.

Boundaries of the proposed district have yet to be drawn, Martin said.

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