Status Update: July 2010
Charles Town to the Virginia State Line
A study report in 1978 (A Study Report on the Eastern Panhandle Area Transportation Study) ranked this project as the first priority highway need for the area. It would upgrade an approximate 5-mile stretch of WV 9 into a 4-lane divided highway, which not only would provide swifter, easier travel, but also would be materially safer than the present route. The existing WV 9 was designed as a rural-collector road when it was constructed around 1930. The world and the Eastern Panhandle both have changed dramatically since then.
A great deal of the population increase in Jefferson County has occurred in the area where the Division of Highways (DOH) proposed to place this project. Over a 20-year period (1992-2012), the average daily traffic was anticipated to increase from 10,500 to 22,100 vehicles per day. Much of that growth is present today, apparently fulfilling the prediction that the entire portion of the WV 9 study area is operating at an unacceptable level of service in both directions. Safety is the primary purpose for the project. The results of previous studies indicate that the number of accidents along current WV 9 was 32 percent higher than the statewide average for similar facilities, and fatalities along this roadway were 76 percent higher than the state's average.
The construction of this approximate 5-mile segment currently is estimated to be $153 million, which includes previously completed projects, projects under contract and future construction projects. This segment is significantly more expensive on a per-mile basis than others because a major bridge must be constructed across the Shenandoah River as the 4-lane road approaches the Virginia border.
Five construction alternatives were considered, which could have possibly affected 88 historic resources at least 50 years old. All of the construction alternatives would require acquisition of land from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. This becomes necessary because the existing WV 9 right-of-way bisects the trail near Keys Gap near the Virginia state line.
The Environmental Impact Statement for this section of the Route 9 relocation project developed information which led to the conclusion that Alternative E was the preferred alternative. The preferred alternative:
requires the displacement of only 14 residences;
directly affects only 46 acres of agricultural land;
involves less than one-third acre of palustrine wetlands and impacts 2,761 feet of perennial stream;
was developed to avoid crossings of Cattail Run and associated wetlands and springs (Cattail Run is classified as a High Quality Stream and the spring is a major source of water for the Federal Hill Farm operation);
involves only 3 historic resources at least 50 years old
The DOH developed what is called a Minimization Alignment to reduce the impact to an absolute minimum so that only the Fleetwood and Belvedere site are adversely affected. The "minimization," or mitigation, on those sites will effectively shield both sites. At Fleetwood, the grade of the roadway will be depressed so that the highway will not be in the immediate view of the historic structures there. The natural topography at Belvedere will minimize the visual impact, particularly from the main house. The visual impact from that structure will be similar to the existing Charles Town Bypass. Both at Fleetwood and at Belvedere, trees and shrubbery will be planted within the relocated WV 9 right-of-way to further minimize visual impact.
Modern highway planning also requires that experts test the highway right-of-way for potential archaeological sites that could yield important information to those studying the pre-history and history of the area. Within the proposed WV 9 preferred alternative, six archaeological sites appear to have such potential; however none is potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement was approved by the Federal Highway Administration October 16, 2000, and the Federal Highway Administration approved the Record of Decision on January 4, 2001.
The design of this approximate 5-mile section is complete. A grade and drain construction project (including a bridge) is complete along the section extending from US 340 to Cattail Run (east of CR 9/3). The construction of the US 340 Frontage Roads that began in September 2006 also is complete. A grade and drain construction contract along the section extending from Cattail Run (east of CR 9/3) to east of CR 27 is under construction and is anticipated to be completed in the summer of 2010. The construction of the Shenandoah River Bridge project is anticipated to be completed in the summer of 2012. Additionally, the construction of the four-lane highway, including a bridge, along the section extending from a proposed new Shenandoah River Bridge to the Virginia Line is anticipated to be completed in the summer of 2011. The paving of the approximate 3.1-mile section of WV 9 from US 340 to the new Shenandoah River Bridge is expected to be completed in the summer of 2012.
The Division of Highways anticipates that Charles Town to the Virginia State Line section of WV 9 will be completed and opened to traffic in the fall of 2012.
Charles Town to Martinsburg
The present WV 9 is plagued with a high accident rate, growing traffic congestion and increasing development, both residential and commercial. The current roadway was not designed to handle the situation that is present today, which will only get worse as the Eastern Panhandle continues to grow. Among other problems, WV 9 now has limited sight distances, few center-turn or right-turn lanes, and no shoulders capable of providing capacity for emergencies. Traffic volume is highest closer to Martinsburg and I-81. Thousands of motorists use WV 9 daily to get to and from work, traffic is heavy, and major tie-ups and delays are common. As a result, the accident rate between Martinsburg and Charles Town is higher than the statewide average.
The new 4-lane section of WV 9 will greatly ease the current traffic problems on the existing route, which could then serve local traffic that specifically needs to use it. The construction cost of the Martinsburg to Charles Town section, which is approximately 10 miles in length, has been estimated to be $147 million.
Three construction alternatives were considered, which could have affected at least 189 individual cultural and historic resources and 3 historic districts within this Section. As a result of public input, and as documented in a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), the DOH developed the Preferred Alternative, which affects only 1 of the 189 cultural resources in the area that will be directly affected by the project.
An inventory was completed in January 2000 in the vicinity of Bower Road/Border Road and a comprehensive field view found 8 properties with standing structures meeting the age criterion for possible historic sites. National Register eligibility assessments indicate that 4 of those sites (Western View, A.M. Widmyers Farm, Locust Grove Farm and Minor Hurst House) appear to meet the criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Many of the resources identified as eligible by both federal and state agencies are historic farms with associated buildings, structures and farmland that reflect more than 200 years of historic agricultural use. The boundaries of some historic farms were enlarged to reflect the recommendation of the Keeper of the National Register.
The Preferred Alternative selected is the Presnell alternative, which has been shifted to avoid impacts to historic properties and natural resources. More detail can be found in the 2002 Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.
The Final Environmental Impact Statement for this section of WV 9 was approved by the Federal Highway Administration on April 29, 2002, and the Record of Decision was approved by the Federal Highway Administration on July 25, 2002.
In the Bardane area, about 100 yards from the existing roadway, researchers found artifacts which date back to about 1787, on what is called the Mt. Pleasant site. These items may have belonged to the first family to settle in the original 346-acre Lord Fairfax grant conveyed to Jacob Hite in March 1752. The excavation unearthed hundreds of clay pipestems, made of a white ceramic, and some still have their bowls attached. The archaeologists also found a thimble, bone buttons, a butterknife, and a copper penny dated 1787 that was minted in Connecticut and that bears the Latin inscription “In freedom and liberty.”
At another site, located in a wooded area near the Fairview Acres subdivision in the Baker Heights section, a dig produced much older artifacts. This area evidently was used, off and on, from about 8500 B.C. to about 500 B.C. The Native Americans who passed through and who may have camped there left behind pottery shards and arrowheads (which experts refer to as projectile points), some of which appear still shiny and ready for use.
The design is complete for the entire 10.7 miles of the Charles Town to Martinsburg section and construction is proceeding along two distinct segments: Martinsburg to Kearneysville and Kearneysville to Charles Town. A separate bike path is being constructed adjacent to WV 9 and the construction of that path is included in each appropriate WV 9 construction contract.
Martinsburg to Kearneysville
The current construction cost (completed, current and future projects) regarding the Martinsburg to Kearneysville section is estimated to be $111 million. The construction of the one-mile section between Martinsburg and the Regional Jail (CR 9/31 to CR 9/13) was completed in the summer of 1997.
Construction of the upgrade to 4 lanes (includes 2 bridges) between the Regional Jail (Berkeley CR 9/13) and Opequon Creek (approximately 1.38 miles) was completed in October 2009 and that section is open to traffic. Construction of the upgrade to 4 lanes (includes 2 bridges) between Opequon Creek and Berkeley CR 9/19 (approximately 2.05 miles) also was completed in October 2009, but it is not yet open to traffic. Construction of the 2.6-mile section between Berkeley CR 9/19 and Jefferson CR 1 (Leetown Road) is underway and is anticipated to be completed in late summer 2010; the 4.65-mile section between Opequon Creek and Jefferson CR 1 is anticipated to open to traffic in late summer 2010.
Kearneysville to Charles Town
The construction cost regarding the Kearneysville to Charles Town section is estimated to be $74 million. The four-lane roadway is open between Charles Town and Jefferson CR 1 (Leetown Road).
The Division of Highways anticipates that Charles Town to Martinsburg section of WV 9 will be completed and opened to traffic in late summer 2010.
One of the key elements of improving highway travel in the Eastern Panhandle is a new Martinsburg Bypass. The Division of Highways proposes to construct an approximate 5-mile bypass around Martinsburg in Berkeley County. The project is designed to improve traffic safety in the area while freeing Martinsburg from its current traffic congestion problems. The Bypass would also improve access throughout the study corridor.
The Division of Highways conducted a public information workshop meeting on the project January 28, 2003 and received public comments through February 28, 2003. Nine build alternatives ranging in cost from $110 to $161 million were presented to the public at the meeting. In addition, four Raleigh Street Extension alternatives were studied and presented, as requested by local public officials.
The Environmental Assessment, required for this highway project will be widely circulated for comments. Another public workshop regarding the project will then be scheduled by the WVDOH shortly thereafter. The purpose of this public workshop will be to offer local residents the opportunity to comment on the alternative under consideration before any final decisions are made.
The West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) is currently evaluating the environmental aspects of the Martinsburg Bypass Project. GAI Consultants, the engineering consultant to the WVDOH on the Bypass project, has developed an Environmental Assessment. The environmental phase of the project will continue as priorities dictate.
In winter 2001, the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) conducted the early stages of the historic process to identify historic resources and archaeological sites located in the area surrounding the proposed alignment for the Martinsburg Bypass.
By February 2001, the first phase of the historic survey was complete and 3 properties in the area, the Continental Clay Brick Plant, the Myers House and the Kunkel House, were found to be listed with the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). The WVDOH also identified 9 additional properties that were eligible for listing with the NRHP.
Consultants for the WVDOH are currently in the process of developing a Criteria of Effects Report that will outline the impacts that the Bypass may have on these historic properties. The WVDOH has completed a “predictive model,” the document generated to determine the level of probability that there is an archaeological site in the construction area. Once the preferred alignment is solidified, the first phase of an archaeological survey will be conducted, and an Effects Report will be finalized.
Raleigh Street Extension
This project has been separated from the Martinsburg Bypass project. The improvement includes the extension of Raleigh Street in the City of Martinsburg, generally from Race Street to the intersection of WV 9 and US 11, a distance of approximately 1.2 miles. The primary intent of the project is to provide a second connection from the City’s downtown are to the City’s northern/northeastern sections. The project is intended to alleviate congestion in downtown Martinsburg and help relieve congestion along Queen Street (WV 9), which constrained by a two-lane underpass and currently is the only route serving the northern section of the City.
The Environmental Assessment was approved by the FHWA on August 22, 2006, and a public workshop was held October 17, 2006. The WVDOH has reviewed the comments received as a result of that workshop. The preferred option, an optimization of Option 3B, is based on engineering and environmental considerations, as well as comments made at the Public Information Workshop and correspondence from local governments. The Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was approved March 18, 2008. Final design of the project is underway.
A construction contract regarding the 0.4-mile section, including a bridge, of the Raleigh Street Extension from approximately 0.25 mile north of the intersection of Raleigh Street and Relocated Tavern Road to US 11/WV 9 was awarded in June 2010, and construction of that project is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2011. A construction contract is anticipated to be advertised in the summer of 2010 for the section from approximately 0.1 mile south of the intersection of Raleigh Street and Relocated Tavern Road to approximately 0.25 mile north of the intersection of Raleigh Street and Relocated Tavern Road.
Berkeley Springs to Martinsburg
One important element of the WV 9 upgrade in the Eastern Panhandle involves the segment from Berkeley Springs to Martinsburg. The Division of Highways will begin the engineering studies and continue the environmental studies, which always precede any actual right-of-way and construction work, once federal funding becomes available for the preliminary design studies.
A corridor has been selected for the approximate 27-mile section between US 522 and I-81. This part of the overall WV 9 project still is in the very early stages of development.