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Manchin in Martinsburg for Raleigh Street Extension groundbreaking

May 04, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • Martinsburg (W.Va.) Mayor George Karos shakes hands with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin Tuesday during a groundbreaking ceremony at Oatesdale Park for the Raleigh Street Extension road project in Martinsburg.
Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.-- Martinsburg Mayor George Karos didn't hesitate to admit Tuesday that he had taken every opportunity to "remind" Gov. Joe Manchin over the last several years about the Raleigh Street Extension road project.

"Yes you have," Manchin responded amid Karos' remarks at the construction project's groundbreaking ceremony at Oatesdale Park.

"It's the truth," added Manchin after laughter subsided among a crowd of more than 75 people on hand for the event.

With verification in hand, Karos went on to share that he didn't have to mention the 1.2-mile project to Manchin the last time the subject came up between them about two or three years before at Hedgesville (W.Va.) High School.

"All I wanted to do was to say 'hello' and welcome his staff," Karos said. "I reached up and pulled his coattail; he turned around, looked down at me (from a platform) and said 'George I know -- Raleigh Street."

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Karos, becoming emotional at the close of his remarks, went on to say that he was assured by Manchin on several occasions that the project would become a reality. The project, which Karos said had been talked about for more than 25 years, will provide emergency responders with a second north-south option in the city. Officials anticipate improved traffic flow and additional economic growth along the new route.

"You are a man of your word," Karos said to Manchin, his voice breaking. "Today is truly a dream come true. Thank you, sir."

The first of three construction contracts for the new road between Edwin Miller Boulevard and West Race Street, where North Raleigh Street now ends, has been advertised and bids will be opened June 2, West Virginia Department of Transportation officials said at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Projected to cost about $38 million, the project includes construction of bridges over Tuscarora Creek, CSX Transportation and Winchester & Western's railroad tracks, and a wetlands area, according to Gregory Bailey, director of engineering for the West Virginia Department of Transportation's highways division. Tavern Road will be reconfigured at its intersection with the extension. At Oatesdale Park, two Martinsburg Little League ball fields are to be relocated because of the road project and a new entrance will be built, Bailey said.

Bailey said the new road was designed so it could be designated as the new route for U.S. 11 through the city. U.S. 11 currently overlaps a portion of W.Va. 9 and W.Va. 45 on Queen Street.

The projected completion date for the project is the end of 2012.

State Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, who was credited by Manchin and Karos for initiating a key meeting in 2005 with state transportation officials about Raleigh Street, said the mayor was the "Bob Huggins" of the Raleigh Street Extension team who pushed to make the project a reality. He was making reference to the head coach of West Virginia University's men's basketball team.

"Without the mayor and his insistent persistence on this project, we wouldn't be standing here today," Unger said.

Manchin said he was proud to be part of the ceremony, noting the cooperation among local officials, including the Berkeley County Commission's support for reallocating $13 million in federal money from the proposed W.Va. 9 Martinsburg bypass to the Raleigh Street project.

"This should be a model for the rest of the state -- basically coming together," Manchin said. "I hope that we always are able to continue to move together working ... as one for the betterment of all."

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who along with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, also D-W.Va., netted a total of $23 million for the project since 2005, has requested $9 million to close a gap in funding, according to a news release issued Tuesday from Byrd's office in Washington.

The state in January committed to filling the funding gap for the project, but was unsuccessful earlier this year in its request for federal stimulus money. Byrd's request is pending before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urban Development for fiscal year 2011, which begins Oct. 1, according to Byrd spokesman Jesse Jacobs.

In addition to Byrd and Rockefeller's efforts, the city committed $1 million toward the project and Karos said U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., secured $490,000 for the project in 2008, and the state committed about $4.6 million.

"As you can see, this project has come about by persistence and teamwork," Karos said.

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