by Trish Rudder
The majority of the 35 public comments on the proposed U.S. 522 Berkeley Springs Bypass want the bypass to be reduced to two lanes instead of the four lanes as it is now designed.
The comments are from the West Virginia Department of Transportation Division of Highways (DOH) workshop meeting on February 28 at Berkeley Springs High School.
In addition to the requests for a two-lane bypass, the majority wrote that they want the speed limit to be 55 mph instead of 65.
While many people said they were against any bypass at the February meeting, seven of the comments received do not want a bypass and five said they wanted the route to be adjusted.
The collection of public comments were received on August 21 through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sent by The Morgan Messenger on July 16 to the DOH. The comment period from the February meeting ended on April 1 and several requests to receive the comments were made by this newspaper but not fulfilled until the FOIA request was submitted.
The bypass entrances at the southern and northern ends were redesigned based on the community comments from last year’s meeting to allow traffic to continue on U.S. 522 straight into town.
At the February workshop meeting, the intersection at the southern end connection was shown as a roundabout that would allow the entrance onto the bypass on the east side of U.S. 522.
A roundabout on the northern end was shown connecting to the bypass. A Fairview Connector exit was depicted, going to Fairview Drive and War Memorial Hospital.
A roundabout is a circular intersection where drivers travel counterclockwise around a center island. Drivers yield at entry to traffic in the roundabout, then enter the intersection and exit at their desired street. A roundabout is designed to accommodate all vehicles, including truck and trailer combinations.
DOH traffic engineer Ken Clohan said at the workshop meeting that the intersection design on the map shows a roundabout, but it could be a traffic stop sign instead. He said studies show a roundabout is safer and there “are less severe crashes.”
Five people commented they would prefer a bypass that included a stoplight and not a roundabout, and four people preferred a bypass with a roundabout.
The final intersection design will be based on right-of-way and environmental impacts and the costs associated with the current and future four-lane construction projects, the DOH had said.
An at-grade intersection at Myers Road that was in the original design has been eliminated. Construction of ramps for the Winchester Grade Interchange will be delayed for future construction, the DOH had said.
The project description proposes to construct the Berkeley Springs Bypass and the Fairview Connector. The project begins south of Winchester Grade Road and ends north of town near Sandmine Road, including a connector from U.S. 522 to Fairview Drive (near War Memorial Hospital) for a distance of about four miles. The estimated cost of the project is $64 million.
The currently proposed bypass will be a four-lane, controlled access expressway with a grassed median and a design speed of 65 mph, according to the DOH.
According to the DOH timeline, the environmental impact study should be finished by mid-2019, right-of-way activities by the end of 2019, construction in late 2020 and in early 2021.