2013-06-19 / Front Page

Proposed 522 bypass project still on state’s radar

by Kate Shunney

Three weeks ago, motorists idling at the intersection of Route 9 and U.S. 522 were greeted by survey crews handing out dark blue postcards.

The cards asked drivers to go online and complete a survey of their driving habits in Berkeley Springs. Questions probed the length of drivers’ trips, whether they were headed to work, home or shopping, and how long their trip might take.

A final series of questions focused on the drivers’ willingness to use a proposed U.S. 522 bypass if it was a toll road.

Survey results are still being analyzed, said engineer Greg Bailey of the West Virginia Department of Transportation. The data is part of the state’s long-range planning for highway projects.

“It’s not an indication that we’re imminently ready to build that highway, to put tolling or not put tolling on it,” said Bailey.

He characterized the survey as part of his department’s efforts to determine what funding possibilities are out there for future highway projects.

“It’s one of a number of projects we’re looking at,” he said, acknowledging there is “a fair amount of traffic and transportation need” in the Berkeley Springs area.

Bailey said the state is preparing to evaluate “the next wave of projects” that might be added to the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which is created in five-year blocks, but is updated continually.

“U.S. 522, particularly around Berkeley Springs, factors in those projects pretty heavily,” said Bailey.

Several years ago, the state’s Department of Transportation started looking at U.S. 522 improvements in two phases.

The total project – a 19-mile four-lane road from the Virginia state line to Maryland – had an estimated price tag of $213.75 million.

Bailey said the portion of the project that would bypass Berkeley Springs on the north end of town is being looked at again as part of the state’s fiveyear planning cycle.

“From a priority standpoint, that would probably be the point of emphasis,” he said.

“Over the next year or two, I would see the bypass portion factor into our planning,” Bailey said.

The state would have to update environmental assessments and review current property ownership to put the 522 bypass back on their project list, said Bailey.

Funding, as always, is the deciding factor for the highway proposal. Bailey said the state’s Blue Ribbon Highway Commission, which is looking at road planning and financing, could determine how the Department of Transportation proceeds with their lineup of projects.

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