Route 9 West in the Eastern Panhandle stretches 27 miles from Martinsburg to Berkeley Springs.Although there are ways to write capital grants into so-called infrastructure bills, maintenance is still a local responsibility.
It’s a busy road, home to large commercial operations such as a Macy’s distribution center, FedEx and General Motors as well as residential homes, farms and smaller businesses.
The small, rural two-lane expressway carries a lot of traffic daily. With a speed limit that’s between 45 and 55 miles per hour, it’s often backed up during peak traffic times and sees a fair amount of accidents.
“We’re getting slammed up here, and we need some major help,” said Elaine Mauck, a Berkeley County Council member who has been vocal about her concern over Route 9 West.
“People fail to realize the big issue about Berkeley County is we are within 500 miles, any way you shake it, of two thirds of the population of the United States,” she said. “That's why we are attracting business and people.”
Route 9 West began experiencing its boom in use about 10 years ago, Mauck said, and the congestion is only worsening as more drivers use the road.
Mauck isn’t alone in her concern over Route 9 West. Many residents in the area, including the Berkeley County Development Authority’s Executive Director Sandy Hamilton, share concerns over the road.
Aaron Gillispie, the chief engineer for the West Virginia DOH, said West Virginia has one of the largest transportation systems in the country based on the number of miles of road in the state.Yes, and raising tolls is probably harder to do than see if the state can shift some money around.
“We’re little old West Virginia, but we are the sixth largest,” Gillispie said. The state has 36,000 miles of roadway, largely maintained by the Division of Highways
In West Virginia, only 14,000 miles of roadway are eligible for federal dollars. The rest must come from state tax dollars like tolls, DMV fees and gasoline tax.
The money is collected in the State Road Fund, which combined with state and federal dollars, takes in about $1.2 billion each year. Gillispie said road projects are funded based on need, and there’s never enough dollars to go around.
“Our needs far outweigh our means,” he explained. “And every year we get further and further behind as a whole. We have a high demand and a limited supply, so therefore, we do have to prioritize.”
Just don't dare put any money for passenger trains in the budget.