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New section of W.Va. 9 opens to motorists

September 01, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
  • The last sections of the new four-lane route for W.Va. 9 between Martinsburg and Charles Town, W.Va., opened to motorists Tuesday. This view is from the Short Road overpass in Martinsburg, looking east near the Jefferson County line.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer,

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --The last sections of the new four-lane route for W.Va. 9 between Martinsburg and Charles Town, W.Va., opened to motorists at about 11 a.m. Tuesday, according to Kenneth L. Clohan, the area construction engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways.

To prevent confusion among the traveling public, highway officials had to coordinate the opening of the new section of W.Va. 9 between Opequon Creek and Leetown Road in Jefferson County with the changing of signage along the old route, Clohan said.

"Everybody on the old route needs to be aware of the (connections) to the new route," Clohan said.

Motorists traveling east on the new route to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center should take the Opequon Connector exit to reach the hospital, while those traveling west from Charles Town should take the Short Road exit, Clohan said.

While open to traffic, crews still need to restore the median of the new highway near the Opequon Creek bridge where traffic had been diverted across a temporary "crossover" to the old route, Clohan said. The crossover also has to be removed and some shoulder work must be completed, Clohan said.

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While the bike trail along the new route is "ready to go," landscaping along the highway between Eastern Regional Jail and the Currie Road exit in Jefferson County is not expected to be completed until fall, Clohan said. The work is part of a separate contract, he said.

A ceremony celebrating the opening is expected to be held later this year, officials have said.

The completion of more than four miles of new highway cost more than $50 million, according to highway officials.

The late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd is credited with securing more than $156 million in funding for the new highway from Martinsburg to the Virginia line.

Sections of the project east of Charles Town to the Virginia line remain under construction and the last project, a new bridge over the Shenandoah River, is on schedule to be completed in 2012, Clohan said.

The new route is replacing a two-lane road that state transportation officials have said had an accident rate 44 percent above the state average and a fatality rate that was 76 percent above average.

The old section of W.Va. 9 between Martinsburg and Charles Town was considered among the most-dangerous and most-congested portions of the roadway, highway officials have said.

The speed limit for the new highway is 65 mph, except in areas where there are at-grade entrances to the road. In those places, the speed limit is 55 mph, Clohan said.

Those areas are generally west of the Opequon Creek bridge toward Martinsburg and in the vicinity of The Marketplace at Potomac Towne Center in Ranson, W.Va., Clohan said.

Jefferson County Development Authority Executive Director Thomas Bayuzik Jr. said the opening of the new road adds another selling point in his pitch to companies interested in coming to the area.

Land ready to be developed in Jefferson County's Burr Industrial Park is about a 10- to 15-minute drive from Interstate 81, Bayuzik said.

With the reduced traveling time comes energy savings and other efficiencies, Bayuzik said.

"We're happy that the day (W.Va. 9 opens) has come," said Bayuzik, who added that the new route also might take some of the traffic pressure off U.S. 340 through Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Stephen Christian, Bayuzik's counterpart at the Berkeley County Development Authority, expects the newly opened four-lane route between the counties will be of "mutual benefit."

The new route likely will attract a corridor of development in both counties, but also provides much easier access to Martinsburg, which has a larger number of retail stores and restaurants, Christian said.

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