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Groundbreaking set for Raleigh Street extension project

April 27, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin and state Secretary of Transportation Paul Mattox are inviting the public to join them for the groundbreaking of the long-awaited Raleigh Street Extension road construction project in Martinsburg next week.

The ceremony is slated to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday in Oatesdale Park off Tavern Road, WVDOT announced Tuesday in a news release.

The first section of the 1.2-mile project to extend Raleigh Street in downtown Martinsburg north to Edwin Miller Boulevard (W.Va. 9) is expected to be completed in July 2012, according to the release.

The work to be done in the first of three contracts includes earth moving, paving and pavement markings, sign and signal installation/modification, and a bridge between Tavern Road and Edwin Miller Boulevard, according to the WVDOT.

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The first section is estimated to cost about $5.5 million, according to the news release. The project's total cost has been estimated at $37.5 million.

Mattox, during an unannounced visit to the Eastern Panhandle on April 15, said the project would not have "moved off first base" in 2005 without the efforts of state Sen. John Unger to initiate the project, which was eventually added to WVDOT's six-year plan.

Mattox said the state in January 2010 committed in a meeting with Unger and State Highway Engineer Marvin Murphy in Charleston, W.Va., to fill an $8.3 million gap in funding for the project.

"No politician earmarked it," Mattox said. "It's not additional money, it's money that we get appropriated to take care of our federal highway system in the state. And that project, it's a good project, it's needed and the $8.3 million allows us to build a usable section," Mattox said.

The state was unsuccessful in an attempt to land federal stimulus money for the project, Mattox said.

"It should benefit traffic and relieve congestion," Mattox added.

Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, who joined Mattox, Murphy and other state DOT officials on April 15 for a tour of ongoing construction of the new route for W.Va. 9 in the Eastern Panhandle, said the Raleigh Street Extension project has been talked about since he was a child, and he was proud to be part of the effort to get it started.

Federal funds will pay for 80 percent of the first and second contracts of Raleigh Street, according to the WVDOT news release. A $10 million federal appropriation announced in 2005 by Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd helped jump-start the project. A $13 million appropriation, which was announced in 2005 for the W.Va. 9 Martinsburg bypass project, was later reallocated to the extension project. The Berkeley County Commission endorsed the change, which Byrd announced in 2008.

The second Raleigh Street extension contract is a .35-mile section beginning south of a relocated Tavern Road intersection with the Raleigh Street extension and will end about a quarter-mile north of the intersection. The third contract for the remaining .45-mile section of the extension is still in the design stage, according to the WVDOT.

The W.Va. 9 and Raleigh Street projects, along with the Division of Motor Vehicles office in Kearneysville, W.Va., in Jefferson County, are three of the major projects that Unger said he was most proud of helping move forward as chairman of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

"All of those were always talked about for years and years and years, and never happened," Unger said.

The new, four-lane route for W.Va. 9 between Charles Town and Martinsburg is slated to open this summer and the remaining section is due to be complete in 2012, when a new bridge over the Shenandoah River is finished, Mattox said in April.

The Martinsburg City Council this month approved agreements with the DOH to release $1 million that the city committed to the project and to relocate two Little League ball fields at Oatesdale Park that will be affected by the new road.

City Manager Mark Baldwin told city leaders earlier this month that relocation work for the ball fields could begin this summer.

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