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Martinsburg's Raleigh Street extension project an example for other West Virginia communities

August 24, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox points to Martinsburg’s Raleigh Street extension project as an example for other West Virginia communities to follow should they have a road-construction need.

The 1.2-mile extension of Raleigh Street from West Race Street to Edwin Miller Boulevard, which is expected to be completed in a matter of days, will become a reality because of Martinsburg’s financial commitment to the project and collaboration with state and federal officials, Mattox said.

Mattox was the state’s commissioner of highways in 2005 when he was directed by then-Gov. Joe Manchin to put together a six-year transportation plan that would encompass the state’s most pressing projects.

The Raleigh Street extension was added to the plan after state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, then the chairman of the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, arranged a meeting in Martinsburg with city leaders, Mattox said.

Mattox said Mayor George Karos and city Manager Mark Baldwin stressed the importance of the project in helping with congestion and related concerns, Mattox said.

With the opening of the Raleigh Street Extension, emergency responders will have an alternate north-south route to North Queen Street, which often becomes clogged with vehicles.

Unger said in an interview last week that he saw an opportunity at the time to move the Raleigh Street project forward.

“Raleigh Street has been talked about ever since I was a kid, and I’m 44,” Unger said.

The city’s willingness to step up and make a commitment to the Raleigh Street project demonstrated that communities don’t have to wait on the state and federal government to get things done, Unger said.

Mattox said the city’s $1 million commitment for the project “certainly was the icing on the cake” in getting it added to the state’s transportation plan.  

Mattox said new construction projects such as the Raleigh Street extension are possible in other communities, but the local contribution will weigh even more heavily because the state has less money for those projects.

“They need to be able to step up to the plate and contribute resources,” Mattox said.

The total cost of the Raleigh Street project, including engineering, land acquisition and construction, has not been finalized, but Mattox said he expects it to be “in the neighborhood of $35 million.”

In addition to the city’s contribution and state funding, the project was aided by the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., who was asked to redirect $13 million that had been obtained for the proposed bypass around Martinsburg in 2005 to the Raleigh Street project.

The transfer of funds, which came after Berkeley County leaders joined the city in support of the move, was added to a $10 million allocation that already had been announced for the project in 2005 by Byrd and U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. Two years later, a $500,000 earmark was announced by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Building the extension came with its own set of challenges, Mattox said.

The new road’s five bridges cross over Tuscarora Creek, CSX and Winchester & Western railroad tracks, rail sidings that connect the rail lines, and wetlands. 

Ball fields in the city’s Oatesdale Park on the west side of the new route also had to be relocated within the park. A new entrance to the park was built, and parts of Moler Avenue and Tavern Road had to be rerouted.

The new road also passes the historic Aspen Hall property where George Washington attended a wedding, according to historical accounts.

The relocation of the ball fields was done first, followed by the construction of the road, which was divided into three sections.

The middle section, the last to be completed, has been affected by inclement weather like other projects across the state, Mattox said.

But with the Raleigh Street extension’s completion now in sight, Mattox said he is looking forward to cutting a ribbon “on a nice sunny day.”

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