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Debate continues over road project

by James Fisher

REGIONAL WRITER

GRAFTON -- The debate over a state Division of Highways proposal to make U.S. 50 a four-lane road from the Taylor-Harrison County line to Grafton continued Thursday at a meeting of the Taylor Roads Enhancement Committee.

The meeting was held to gain public input and further refine the direction the committee should take, said chairman Don Harmon. About 20 very vocal opponents of the plan attended the meeting, including John Whitescarver, a county resident who organized a public meeting against the road last month.

Proponents of the plan say adding lanes to U.S. 50 and making it a controlled access highway is necessary to encourage economic growth in Taylor County and Grafton.

Opponents say the road is unnecessary in this day of e-commerce and will only serve to destroy what many find appealing about Taylor County -- the tranquility, natural beauty and lack of traffic jams.

"You say this will allow people to get to Clarksburg five minutes faster? Leave five minutes earlier," said Paul McDaniel, whose sentiments were met with applause and cheers.

McDaniel and his wife, Barbara, are in the process of opening a wildlife preserve near U.S. 50 in Taylor County and say that one of the alternatives proposed by the DOH would wipe out their farm.

Roy Shank, a member of the committee, said that traffic patterns on the road justify the four-lane proposal. He also said that creating the necessary transportation infrastructure will help lure businesses to the area and benefit all of Taylor County.

"We can stand still. But remember, when you stand still, you go backward because the rest of the world passes you by," he said.

Rod Summers said he didn't think building a four-lane highway through Taylor County would be the cure-all to the county's economic woes.

"You say we need a four-lane to grow, but I see Barbour and Preston counties growing," he said. "There's no city water and sewage in a lot of Taylor County, but Barbour and Preston counties have those things. I just can't accept the statement that if you build it, they will come."

Gene Pryor, who has been very vocal in his opposition, pointed out that the DOH has suspended major operations this year because of massive budget shortfalls. He said he doesn't think the state is going to pony up the millions it will take to build a four-lane highway in the county.

Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com

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