Advertisement

Capito tours Raleigh Street extension in Martinsburg

May 28, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • Rep. Shelley Moore Capito and Martinsburg City Manager Mark Baldwin walk on a bike path next to the southern part of the Raleigh Street extension in Martinsburg, W.Va. on Tuesday.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A $500,000 earmark for construction of the Raleigh Street extension in Martinsburg was one of the last such appropriations secured by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, she said while touring the 1.2-mile road project Tuesday.

“It’s a new world now and I’m fine with that,” said Capito of the demise of earmarks, which lawmakers once added to bills to benefit a specific home-state project or interest.

When the appropriation was announced in 2007 by Capito’s office, the estimated cost to extend North Raleigh Street to Edwin Miller Boulevard was about $32 million.

City Manager Mark Baldwin, who escorted Capito on the tour of the project’s south end, told the seven-term Republican lawmaker that the cost of the new north-south connector in the city now stands at about $38 million. About 10 years ago, the project was projected to cost less than $20 million, but the addition of bridges over multiple railroad tracks along the route has been cited as a significant reason for the added expense. 

Advertisement

The new road is expected to be complete in August or September, Baldwin told Capito before pointing to development and redevelopment opportunities along the Raleigh Street extension corridor.

One property highlighted on the tour was that of Thorn Lumber Co., where several structures have recently been demolished and cleared on the west side of the limited-access road near West Race Street.

The Raleigh Street extension also is envisioned to support development in the city’s tax increment financing, or TIF, district, which is on the north end of the connector. TIF is a tool that banks on future gains in taxes to pay for current improvements that will create the gains in revenue. Aside from the development potential, Baldwin also noted the importance of the connector for emergency responders in the city.

Baldwin said Capito’s earmark, along with other federal appropriations awarded specifically for the Raleigh Street extension, were very “instrumental” in making the project a reality.

In addition to the 2007 appropriation, U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, both D-W.Va., helped steer a total of $23 million toward the road project. The City of Martinsburg also allocated $1 million for the project, which includes a bike path on the east side of the road and a sidewalk on the other.

“I think it will be a good addition to the city,” Capito said.

Since the demise of earmarks, Capito said lawmakers have switched to a merit-based process for allocations to work to ensure projects such as the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska are not funded.

While the north and south ends of the Raleigh Street project are substantially, if not fully, complete, Baldwin said significant work continues on the middle section, which includes rerouting Tavern Road and its connection with Moler Avenue. Lighting along the south end of the project has yet to be installed, and Baldwin said a sign installed that spells Moler Avenue incorrectly was among items that remain to be addressed in that section.
 

After touring the road project, Capito joined Berkeley County Development Authority Executive Director Stephen Christian for an update on development activity at the Tabler Station Business Park. Capito, who helped net funding for the business park’s development, hasn’t toured the park in a long time, Christian said Tuesday afternoon.

Aside from the two development-related tours, Capito also said she planned to meet with hospital executives at Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg before traveling to Morgan County to tour a business there as part of her Eastern Panhandle visit. 

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|