State lays out possible upgrades, new routes for WV-9 East

Public comment sought for preferred alternatives

by Kate Shunney

West Virginia transportation officials have unveiled several options to improve travel and safety along WV-9 between Berkeley Springs and Martinsburg, with particular emphasis on high-congestion areas around Hedgesville.

Officials with the Division of Highways and Pittsburgh-based engineering firm Michael Baker International led an online meeting Thursday evening, March 4, to present what they have called “high-level planning” concepts for the two-lane road to Martinsburg.

Presenters said it will be years before planning proceeds through all of the permitting and funding a highway project will require.

More than 60 people attended the hour-long teleconference meeting, including officials from the Town of Hedgesville and Morgan County Commission, plus travel and tourism groups here.

Engineers walked through a 52-slide presentation that is open to view  on the state Highway website at https://transportation.wv.gov/highways/programplanning/comment/WV-9-Planning-and-Environmental-Linkages-Study/Documents/presentation.pdf.

Slides showed traffic volume and crash incident data for WV-9. Engineers said there is “very low volume” on the northern (Morgan Cou

nty) section of the road. Their data showed travel by 3,200 to 4,100 vehicles per day along the stretch from Berkeley Springs to the Morgan/Berkeley County line. At the county line, traffic volumes spiked upwards, showing up at their highest points very near the connection to I-81 just west of Martinsburg.

Data also showed that WV-9 isn’t primarily used by travelers going all the way from Berkeley Springs to Martinsburg.

“There’s not a lot of long-distance travel,” said Dan Szekeres, Traffic & Safety Analysis Lead for Michael Baker International. “The numbers show less than 100 people per day going from Berkeley Springs to Martinsburg.”

The most frequent trips on WV-9 were between the Berkeley County line and I-81, he said.

Crash data, however, does show areas that need attention in Morgan County, said Szekeres. Curves along Route 9 are “locations of concern,” he said.

Engineer and Project Oversight official Max Heckman said the top goals for an improvement project to the roadway include “improving mobility” between Berkeley Springs and Martinsburg, increasing safety for travelers, supporting planned development for economic gains, protecting environmental resources like water quality and boosting “multi-model” transportation like the use of commuter trains and trails in the area.

LuAnn May, Project Manager for Michael Baker International, said Morgan County has “many natural resources” to take into consideration when planning upgrades to WV-

9. She said Warm Springs Run and Sleepy Creek Watersheds are on planners’ radar, along with Morgan County Farmland Protection parcels, Spruce Pine Hollow Park and the Tuscarora Trail, which runs through the area. All proposed improvements to WV-9 avoid Sleepy Creek Wildlife Management Area.

Of the options to upgrade WV-9, planners and highway officials said the first is to make no changes to the roadway.

The next lowest i

mpact option is the upgrade the existing roadway in its current path with wider shoulders, additional turning lanes, better signage, markings and drainage.

Planners showed six corridor options for re-routing parts or all of WV-9 between Berkeley Springs and Martinsburg.

All corridor options were shown in 1500-ft. wide swaths. May said any new road would be built 200 feet wide within a corridor.

Corridor I Alternative would start in Berkeley Springs and be routed south of the existing WV-9 to the area of Spruce Pine Hollow, and then south of the existing WV-9 to Martinsburg.

Corridor II Alternative would begin at the proposed U.S. 522 bypass point or the Fairview Connector road, swing north of the existing WV-9 for most of its length until Hedgesville.

Corrridor III Alternative would begin on the existing U.S. 522 north of the sandmine plant, run north of the current WV-9 and swing far north of Johnsontown in Berkeley County.

Corridor IV Alternative would start just south of the Hancock bridge and follow a path roughly along River Road, following the contours of the Potomac River then dropping toward Hedgesville through the area of Johnsontown.

Corridor V Alternative would make no route changes in Morgan County, but re-route WV-9 south of the existing road between Johnsontown and Martinsburg.

Corridor VI would make no route changes in Morgan County, but would create a WV-9 bypass north of Hedgesville.

During Thursday’s online meeting, a councilman from the Town of Hedgesville commented that his town government had not been contacted or “kept in the loop” on the corridor alternatives that were unveiled in the document.

“It’s pretty imperative you keep the Town of Hedgesville informed,” he said.

Other attendees asked questions about specific route options, pointing out residential areas and natural views that would be disturbed. Some who commute daily on WV-9 said the route options wouldn’t address the main causes of congestion, which they said could be fixed with minor lane changes or signs.

Max Heckman said those comments are exactly what highway planners are seeking now during a comment period that continues through April 5.

“There is significant congestion at Hedgesville to I-81 and safety concerns for the entire corridor. It could be we wind up with a bypass around Hedgesville and upgrade the existing WV-9,” he said.

“We don’t really have plans at this time. We’re presenting it to the public now,” said Karen Allen of the West Virginia DOH.

DOH officials said there will be another public meeting about the planning stage in May.

Residents can take an online survey about their preferences for different WV-9 improvement options. That survey is found at http://metroquestsurvey.com/eq2n2y and can be found linked off the DOH project website.

Written comments can be sent through the DOH website or via mail or email by April 5 to:

Mr. Elwood Penn

Director, Planning Division

West Virginia Division of Highways

1900 Kanawha Blvd.

Building 5, Room 740

Charleston, W.Va. 25305.

To request a printed comment form, email Karen.E.Allen@wv.gov or go to the project web page.

6 Comments

  1. Preston on March 11, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    I’m not really for the 2 projected routes since that means I would lose over half my back yard. If they w pi old approve this, I would just sell my house and move. I moved out here with the land I have so I wasn’t pancaked against a neighbor.

  2. Richard Bushong on March 12, 2021 at 9:07 am

    I read the statement that there is not that much traffic on RT9, unless you luve along it you avoid it as it is an outdated road and developement continues without road improvements. If Rt 9 was 4 lanes from I81 to Berkeley Springs I am sure you would see an increase in traffic. It would also be the responsible green thing to do because it would save mileage. The other improvement would be RT 522 from WV to MD line with the Berkeley Springs bypass in the works. This would alleviate a lot of I81 traffic heading to I68 in MD. As of late it would have saved at least one life as the dead woman would not have continued on the wrong side of the rd if it was a divided 4 lane HWY.

    • Craig Yeargin on May 3, 2021 at 7:06 pm

      It appears the path of this bypass is going to run through my property. No matter who says what, the state will choose the cheapest way to solve both Rt9 and 522. Widening is not the best choice as some home’s will have to be destroyed just no front land available. The area is growing daily with more traffic. they saw this 20 year’s ago and now it has over run them. I didn’t move up here 24 years ago to have a bypass keep me up at night with semi’s and a higher volume of traffic running next to my home. It appears the path of least resistance follows the path of the railroad track’s. This would take some of the traffic from both 522 and Rt9.

  3. Zachary Salman on March 19, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    It is imperative that the dangerous 25mph curves around Spohrs Crossroads and near the Sleepy Creek bridge be completely removed from WV-9’s path. Though the Morgan County section of the road has a low traffic volume, its ridiculous curves require an awful amount of braking and it is overall a stupidly dangerous highway. Even if the improvement in Morgan County is just a new 2-lane highway, the existing road should be totally replaced in some way.

  4. Catins on April 3, 2021 at 10:32 pm

    It’s hard getting out of my neighborhood on to route 9 and the accidents seem to be more frequent. Something has to be done.

  5. Rosemary Johnson on April 5, 2021 at 5:08 am

    I drive route 9 every day for the past 21 years. It is a safe road for safe drivers

    My home is in the path of one of your options. My home and the entire ecosystem in this rural area would be demolished to accommodate reckless drivers.
    The monetary investment to build a bypass and the destruction of a longtime rural environment would be a senseless tragedy.
    The congestion is mainly where Hedgesville High and the access to I81
    exists.
    Please save taxpayers dollars and save our pristine countryside by focusing on the immediate problem and not some grand project that would disrupt so many lives
    unnecessarily

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