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Manchin dedicates last 4.6 miles of new W.Va. 9

September 20, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE
  • U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. talks with West Virgina Department of Highway employee Nathan Ware, left, Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy Lt. Thomas Hansen and Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Chief of Staff Jesse Jones at a ceremony dedicating the last 4.6 miles of the new four-lane W.Va. 9 from Charles Town, W.Va., to Martinsburg, W.Va.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --Gov. Joe Manchin cut a ribbon Monday to a $50 million gift in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.

Manchin attended a ceremony dedicating the last 4.6 miles of the new four-lane W.Va. 9 from Charles Town, W.Va., to Martinsburg. The $50 million section from Kearneysville, W.Va., to Martinsburg unofficially opened Aug. 31.

The complete 15-mile highway will be four lanes from the Virginia state line in Jefferson County to Martinsburg once the final one-mile easternmost leg is completed in 2012. That project includes construction of a $40 million, four-lane bridge over the Shenandoah River that will replace a two-lane span about a mile upriver.

The late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd secured $156 million for the new highway.

The heavily traveled two-lane road between Virginia and Berkeley Springs in Morgan County, W.Va., was built as a rural collector road in 1930, state officials said.

It is considered to be one of the state's most dangerous highways, speakers at Monday's dedication ceremony said. State transportation officials have said that the road has an accident rate 44 percent above the state average and that the fatality rate is 76 percent above the state average.

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State highway planners are beginning to study roadway alignments and environmental decisions for the next four-lane segment west from Martinsburg to Berkeley Springs, 27 miles away, said Paul A. Mattox Jr., West Virginia's transportation secretary.

Manchin, who is running in the November election to fill Byrd's unexpired term, said that for six years, the road was built piecemeal, "a mile here, a mile there, a right of way here, a right of way there."

It wasn't until politics were set aside and nonpartisan partnerships were established that the job was done, he said.

"They need a dose of West Virginia in Washington," Manchin said.

The governor grabbed the opportunity to do a little campaigning while he held the microphone. West Virginia, he said, is the only state east of the Mississippi River that is paying its bills and is not in a deficit.

"This recession is not going to go away soon, but we have not raised taxes or had layoffs," he said. "We live within our means."

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said the new highway would improve the quality of life for area residents who now will drive on a more beautiful, safer highway. Federal stimulus money, which Capito said she didn't vote for because a larger package was needed, is being spent on the W.Va. 9 expansion.

She called the new highway a "gateway into the Eastern Panhandle" that will draw economic development.

Capito is running for re-election.

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