Northern connector to follow in 2026
by Kate Shunney
With excavation and construction work visible in multiple locations along the 3.4-mile route of a future U.S. 522 Bypass, it can be tricky to tell how close the $69.3-million project is to being done.
West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) officials last Thursday told The Morgan Messenger that the bypass is about 50% complete.
The Messenger had requested an onsite tour of the bypass construction and a project update, which the DOH granted.
Trumbull Corporation of Pennsylvania is working under a $69.35 million contract with the DOH to build the four-lane bypass around downtown Berkeley Springs.
The completion date for the project is September 25, 2024, said Daniel Watts, District 5 Construction Engineer and Ryan Arnold, District 5 Area Engineer.
According to state plans, the 522 Bypass project extends from just south of Winchester Grade Road to a spot just north of Fairfax Street near Fairview Drive.
A second bypass section, which the state calls the Northern Connector, will continue the four-lane bypass past War Memorial Hospital and to a point along U.S. 522 south of Sandmine Road. That segment of the road is expected to be done in October of 2026.
A.L.L. Construction Group of Mt. Storm was awarded a $35 million contract in December 2022 to design and build the Northern Connector.
The two segments will create a 5-mile, four-lane semi-circle to the east of Berkeley Springs.
Martinsburg Road & the bypass
On Thursday, July 6 construction work was concentrated in the area of the old Radio Station Road along Route 9 east of town.
Steel bridge beams and concrete wall sections show the skeleton of what will be an overpass taking bypass traffic over top of the existing Route 9/Martinsburg Road. On the north side of Martinsburg Road, excavators are bringing the hillside down to the level of the future bypass.
Drivers on Route 9 will be able to get onto the bypass in this area via entrance ramps that will extend roughly a quarter of a mile from Martinsburg Road onto the four-line highway, said Area Engineer Ryan Arnold.
Motorists on the bypass will be able to get off the highway onto Martinsburg Road by using exit ramps that can take them into downtown Berkeley Springs or further east on Route 9.
The current two-lane Route 9 will not change much in this area, said Arnold.
Fairfax Street & the bypass
Another highly visible area of bypass construction is along Fairfax Street in the area of Fairview Drive.
Construction has closed off a short connector road between the two streets, leaving just one access point for residents and ambulance traffic heading to the hospital on Fairview Drive.
When work is complete, a future bridge will carry traffic along Fairfax Street over top of the four lanes of the bypass. That bridge will stretch from the area of the stop sign to the next hill to the east, said Arnold.
Local traffic will travel over that bridge to continue to the area around Warm Springs Middle and Intermediate Schools and to the intersection with Martinsburg Road.
The connection between Fairfax Street and Martinsburg Road will be unchanged, said Daniel Watts, District 5 Construction Engineer.
Johnsons Mill Road & the bypass
Changes to Johnsons Mill Road will be part of the final bypass.
Motorists on Johnsons Mill Road will have a level or at-grade crossing to get from one side of the bypass to the other.
The bypass contractor will relocate the road slightly to the north at the crossing. It will drop to the level of the bypass, which is visible today. Stop signs for east and westbound drivers will be placed at the bypass intersection, said Watts.
Winchester Grade Road overpass
Works continues on the Winchester Grade Road overpass, which was put in place earlier this spring. The hillside to the south will be excavated to the level of the overpass deck. There won’t be any access to the bypass off Winchester Grade Road.
Sugar Hollow Road & the bypass
The most significant excavation, fill and roadway disruptions tied to the bypass project are concentrated in the Sugar Hollow Road area.
The northern end of Sugar Hollow Road has been permanently closed, cut off by the bypass path.
The southern end of Sugar Hollow Road, which serves dozens of homes, is now a dirt construction road.
Watts and Arnold said Sugar Hollow Road will eventually be widened, leveled and repaved as part of the bypass project.
There will be an at-grade crossing for traffic coming out of Sugar Hollow Road, giving residents there the option to get onto the bypass or continue across the four-lane highway to get onto the existing U.S. 522 at the ROCS gas station.
On Friday, half of Sugar Hollow Road was blocked for the installation of a drain in the roadway.
Continuous excavation on the east side of U.S. 522 south of Sheetz has raised questions about a future extension of a 522 Bypass southward to the Virginia line. That was the original route of the bypass more than 20 years ago.
Watts and Arnold said that extension is not in the current highway plans.
A planned three-exit roundabout will be the connection between the current Valley Road/U.S. 522 and the new four-lane bypass. It will be built roughly a quarter of a mile south of the Winchester Grade Road intersection.
Northbound traffic on U.S. 522 can choose to exit onto the bypass to the east, or go around the roundabout and continue straight on the existing U.S. 522 toward downtown Berkeley Springs.
Southbound traffic from Berkeley Springs can also choose to proceed south on U.S. 522, or take the bypass exit to the east.
Southbound traffic from the bypass will have the option to take a right exit onto the existing U.S. 522 toward Berkeley Springs or continue around the circle to keep south on 522.
Warm Springs Run will be re-routed into a series of box culverts under the roundabout. Engineers said that will likely happen later in bypass construction.
The roundabout is expected to be one of the last sections of the bypass to be built.
In response to questions from The Morgan Messenger, DOH officials said that they don’t know if some recent utility outages to phone, electric service and internet in Berkeley Springs are related to bypass construction. Multiple utilities have had to move their service lines to get around, above or under the new bypass. Those utility relocations are handled by each individual company, the DOH officials said.
Another feature of bypass construction that has drawn the attention of residents is periodic blasting in excavation areas. More blasting is expected to loosen earth and rock that has to be removed for the roadway. Residents have not been notified ahead of time about the blasts.
With more than a year left to go in the bypass construction, residents and visitors will continue to see the landscape around the future highway change from the removal and dumping of fill to new grading.
DOH officials said they know the work impacts the daily lives of local residents.