Brown: Eastern Panhandle needs expanded infrastructure; MARC talks continue

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A delegate believes Eastern Panhandle roads need work, but in ways not common elsewhere in West Virginia.

Del. Sammi Brown (D-Jefferson, 65) spoke on MetroNews affiliate WEPM in Martinsburg Wednesday during Panhandle Live. Berkeley and Jefferson Counties continue to experience substantial residential and commercial growth.

In a recent interview, Berkeley County Councilmember Dan Dulyea told WEPM the county records an average of 80 new addresses per week.

Neighboring Jefferson County’s housing construction continues to explode. A new development known as ‘President’s Point’ in Ranson could consist of 1,100 homes when all phases are finished, according to plans posted by a developer.

“I will never deny that there isn’t still more room for us to grow,” said Brown. “Especially because we’ve grown exponentially when other parts of the state are actually seeing loss. Our infrastructure is more about an expansion as opposed to a complete rebuilding. Whereas in other parts of the state, the roads are literally crumbling.”

As new industries continue to look at the Eastern Panhandle to grow, they look for other areas of infrastructure to fulfill their needs. Brown said she has been discussing ways to improve transportation in the Eastern Panhandle and fiber service throughout the Mountain State.

Sammi Brown

“We’re looking for a way to re-imagine mass transit. Another part of infrastructure, we need to remember this, is technology. So we’re looking for a way to build digital infrastructure as well to really compete with what’s going on as far as e-commerce.”

Technology companies Facebook and Zayo Group have recently announced plans to build fiber cable through the state.

Discussions continue over the MARC commuter train service. It currently runs weekdays with stops in Martinsburg, Duffields and Harpers Ferry before heading to union station in Washington, DC.

Citing a drop in ridership and a lack of funding from West Virginia, the future of the line’s service remains unclear.

The MTA (Maryland Transit Administration) wants West Virginia to provide $3.2 million to keep the train on the tracks through the Mountain State. West Virginia did not compensate Maryland for the MARC rail service between 2013-2017.

This year, just under $1.2 million came through in the final hours of the regular session of the West Virginia legislature to partially fund MARC for another year.

“This seems like maybe not the most natural of lineages, but it’s the same thing with PEIA,” said Brown. “You can’t have things that are just one-off appropriations, or a one time fix and a freeze is not a fix. We’re going to have to look for sustainable solutions so that we don’t have to keep coming back to the drawing board.”

Brown left WEPM Wednesday for Charleston, where she said she would be continuing discussions on MARC and other Eastern Panhandle issues with state leaders. The state Department of Transportation released a list of roads that need repaired and enhanced, including in District 5, earlier in the week.


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