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Bypass in Berkeley Co. could get federal funds

October 26, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

INWOOD, W.Va. -- A bypass to alleviate congestion at the intersection of W.Va. 51 and U.S. 11 in Inwood took a step closer to reality Monday. 

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., the committee's ranking Republican, met with state and local officials to discuss the problems caused by traffic congestion.

Capito said she has requested $9.6 million in the Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act for the bypass. She said she hopes to have a "clearer picture" in about six months on what projects will be part of the highway bill.

The meeting was at the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Co. station near the congested intersection.

"This is a big step today in addressing this issue," fire chief Rick Petry said before the meeting. "It looks like a reality and not just talk."

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"The roads here have not kept up with the growth," Petry said.

Berkeley County Commissioner William L. "Bill" Stubblefield said Inwood has grown with 2,500 new homes since 2008, and 1,500 new homes have been approved, which puts "a major slug of traffic in the Route 11/Route 51 area."

With eight minutes being the standard response time, Stubblefield said the congestion has an impact on emergency responders in rush-hour traffic by more than eight minutes 60 percent of the time and more than 20 minutes 20 percent of the time.

Terry Forrest, director of transportation for Berkeley County Schools, said it takes school buses more than 12 minutes to clear the intersection. He said seven schools have buses that use the intersection. 

Berkeley County Sheriff Kenneth Lemaster said traffic congestion and the problems with flooding in the area hamper the department's ability to respond.

"When (Interstate) 81 shuts down, it's a total nightmare, and it adds to the turmoil here," he said.

"Lights and sirens don't do any good when people don't have any place to get out of our way," Lemaster said.

"When the call comes in, we have to get out on the road, and people have nowhere to go to get out of the way," Petry said.

"And volunteers have to get to the station," Stubblefield said.

Mica said a plan and right of way cost figures for the bypass are needed from the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

Lee Thorn, division of highways district engineer/manager, said he will get the information to Capito.

Mica said the planning, designing and engineering for the bypass could be completed in three years.

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