by KATE SHUNNEY
West Virginia’s Department of Transportation is now seeking contractor bids to build a long-planned U.S. 522 Bypass around Berkeley Springs.
The Division of Highways issued a Notice to Contractors that they would receive bids and sealed proposals until September 15.
Bids will be opened and read publically after the deadline, the Department of Transportation says.
Documents for contractors to review before bidding include 1,400 pages of engineering guidance, stormwater details and bridge construction details.
The state describes the project as construction of a 3.1-mile, four-lane highway from just south of Winchester Grade Road to an area just north of Martinsburg Road. The project includes construction of three bridges – one mainline bridge and one overpass bridge – and three new at-grade intersections, plus an interchange with existing WV9/Martinsburg Road.
The bypass is expected to begin at a roundabout to the south of the Winchester Grade Road intersection, run over WV13/Winchester Grade Road in the area just northwest of Berkeley Baptist Church and continue east and northeast within .6 miles of the existing U.S. 522.
The relocated U.S. 522 will intersect with WV9/Martinsburg Road, where ramps to direct traffic to upgraded local roads, say plans.
Bypass crossings are shown at Sugar Hollow Road, Johnson’s Mill Road, Martinsburg Road and Independence Street (referred to in documents as Davis Road).
According to the Drive Forward WV website, which tracks state highway projects, the Berkeley Springs Bypass will relocate the existing roadway and extends for 3.4 miles. It will be funded through the Roads to Prosperity funding program made possible by an amendment to the West Virginia state constitution in 2017.
Bonds will be issued to pay for the project, with fees from vehicle registration and motor vehicle sales tax paying off those bonds.
The state estimates the project will start in October 2020, finish in October 2023 and be built at an estimated cost of $75 million.
An additional project, known as the Fairview Connector Road, is set to link U.S. 522 north of Berkeley Springs to the area around War Memorial Hospital.
“The remaining 1 mile of the bypass will be part of a Design Build project that is currently on the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and is slated to begin construction next year,” state documents say.
Drainage, land issues
According to bid documents, the state expects that 175.36 acres of land will be disturbed by the bypass construction. Of that area, 110 acres of forest will be removed by construction. Another 34 acres of pasture land will be taken, 32 acres of urban impervious surface will be disturbed and six acres of urban pervious ground will be affected.
One of the main points of discussion surrounding the bypass, besides the economic impact on downtown businesses and residential disruption for landowners along the highway route, is how construction of a new four-lane paved highway will affect the movement of storm water in Berkeley Springs.
As part of the bypass bid documents, the state has provided copies of a State Stormwater Construction Permit from January and April 2020, along with maps showing sediment control basins and other drainage structures along the bypass route.
Water in the bypass construction area will drain into the Warm Springs Run, which is a tributary of the lower Potomac River.
Several lengthy geotechnical reports by Triad Engineering cover design recommendations for the roadway and bridges, taking into account local soil and rock types.
“Based on information provided, construction of the proposed US Route 522 Upgrade will require significant excavations,” one report says.
It details how embankments should be built, how fill and slopes should be managed to ensure stability of the bypass and reduce settlement.
“Initial site preparation should include removing topsoil, tree stumps and other miscellaneous materials present on the site. Organic materials are not suitable for use as fill, and if encountered, should be hauled to a designated waste area,” Triad recommends.
Their report indicates there will be several areas along the bypass route where sloping will encounter bedrock, and construction “may not be possible using conventional equipment.”
Engineers note that the bypass project lies between two geological formations – the Cacapon Mountain Anticline and the Timber Ridge Syncline – and that bedrock bedding runs north-northeasterly, roughly in alignment with the road route.
More than 100 borings were taken to determine the makeup of ground material along the bypass route, Triad reports. Extra borings were taken in the Sugar Hollow Road area where engineers say retaining walls will be built near the bypass route.
Groundwater along the construction route is also mentioned in Triad’s report.
“We anticipate that sources of subsurface water which may develop during construction can probably be managed and removed by a gravity drainage system, sump pits and pumps or other minor dewatering procedures,” the report says.
In the state’s NPDES Permit Application, documents list 68 building demolitions, abandonments of 19 water wells and 25 septic tanks as part of the project specifications.
Bid documents also list the status of Right of Way negotiations to acquire land for the bypass construction. Of 108 parcels of property listed, the state recommends condemnation of six vacant properties. The property report indicates the state is in negotiation on 33 parcels, has a pending offer on 39 parcels to property owners, is waiting on payment for 26 parcels, and is in the signing process on four parcels along the bypass route. Twenty-seven of the parcels being sought for the bypass are designated as Residential properties. The remainder is vacant properties, state documents say.
Highways officials have not responded to multiple requests over the past months for more information about the bypass plans, but a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation indicated that bypass plans are available for review at the District 5 Division of Highways headquarters in Burlington.
Information for this story was taken from documents in the online bid package available to contractors who make seek to build the U.S. 522 Bypass.
Those are listed under Proposal 1726998 on the state’s bidding website.