Residents push for sidewalk along busy Tavern Road

June 16, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Rita Caufield Mier says her husband, Richard, probably has driven to work less than 10 times since they moved to Martinsburg in 2009.

Undeterred by the lack of a walking path or sidewalk along Tavern Road in the city’s north end, Mier said her husband, a pediatrician, routinely has walked to and from their home in the Briarwood development to Shenandoah Community Health Center along the heavily traveled route to Interstate 81.

“His co-workers kind of give him a hard time,” said Mier, who recently presented a petition signed by about 270 residents and workers in the Tavern Road area who support improving pedestrian access between City Hospital and Oatesdale Park.

While concerned about her husband’s safety, Mier said she discovered that parents of children attending Tuscarora Elementary School, which also is along Tavern Road, also would like to see something done along the increasingly heavily traveled road.

Tavern Road became a connecting route to Interstate 81 in 2003 when Exit 14 of the highway was opened, improving access to City Hospital. In 2008, West Virginia Department of Transportation officials found that the average daily traffic for Tavern Road near Oatesdale Park was more than 5,000 vehicles, according to traffic count data on the WVDOT’s website.

And Mier said she expects that count will grow when the Raleigh Street extension is completed and connected to Tavern Road.

Pedestrian access is part of the construction plans for the Raleigh Street project and Mier said adding a sidewalk along Tavern Road would then allow people to walk to City Hospital from downtown Martinsburg.

More importantly, Mier said she feels that children should be able to walk to Tuscarora Elementary School. In her petition, Mier noted there were nearly 500 homes in close vicinity to Tavern Road, along with more than 50 private health care providers, Bethel Assembly of God church, City Hospital, the Little League baseball fields at Oatesdale and multiple businesses.

In response to her petition, Mier said she received a letter from Martinsburg Mayor George Karos that indicated the city was not able to help with funding a pedestrian improvement project along Tavern Road due to budget constraints.

City Manager Mark Baldwin reiterated the city’s limited financial position Tuesday and added that he advised Mier to explore private and grant funding options, including the Safe Routes to School and Transportation Enhancement grant programs.

Kathy Mason, who works with existing businesses in her job with the Berkeley County Development Authority, said she also was advised by local government leaders recently that funding was not available for a different project — a sidewalk along Edwin Miller Boulevard.

The Edwin Miller Boulevard project was jump-started with grant funding received through the Eastern Panhandle Transportation Authority, but Mason said she still needs to identify a 20 percent funding commitment for matching grant applications she intends to submit in hopes of netting the remaining 80 percent. The local financial commitment is required.

“It may take me (another) year to get that money,” Mason said.
The transportation authority funding paid for an architect to study the project’s feasibility, develop a concept plan and estimate the cost, said Mason, who has been working on the project for two years.

The preliminary work by William H. Gordon Associates is expected to be completed by Aug. 1, Mason said.

Once the cost estimates are known, Mason said she will know just how much of a local match is needed to net the 80 percent in grant funding.

While funding remains an issue, Mason said the Edwin Miller Boulevard project is within the state Division of Highways’ right of way, a circumstance she said saves time and money.

Mier, meanwhile, recognizes a sidewalk project along Tavern Road might have be to done in phases because of the cost, but maintains improved pedestrian infrastructure would be a great health benefit for the community.

“It’s a beautiful form of transportation,” Mier said.

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