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Corridor H progressing, providing economic growth to West Virginia

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WV News) — As the decades-long highway project continues, the completion of Corridor H is closer than ever to becoming a reality.

The two remaining unfinished segments of the rural freeway are in the design phase, according to West Virginia Division of Highways Chief Engineer of Development Jason Foster.

“There are two remaining sections of Corridor H under design. There’s the Wardensville-to-Virginia stretch that is currently in the final design stages and advancing toward right-of-way acquisition,” Foster said, also noting that environmental studies are being updated.

“The other segment that’s in development is the Parsons-to-Davis segment in Tucker County. That segment is undergoing a reevaluation, but it’s not as far along. So we’re still in the preliminary design stage. We’re advancing toward an environmental clearance document that would allow us to advance the design and right of way, but that is a big time period ahead of us,” Foster said.

The DOH has been involved in ecological surveys and meetings with the public, Foster said.

“For Wardensville-to-Virginia, we’re updating things like surveys for animals. We have to update all that to be current. We check all the historic structures. ... On the Parsons-to-Davis section, it’s a little more involved because we weren’t as far along when we suspended work for a period of time,” Foster said.

“We’ve had public meetings for both segments in the last month or so. We’ve gone to the public with our current position and information,” Foster said, adding that information on meetings can be found on the DOH’s website.

One major development for the Corridor H project came back in February when the Cheat River Bridge was awarded to Triton Construction of St. Albans, which has started construction, according to Foster.

The Cheat River Bridge will link two sections of Corridor H — Kerens-to-Parsons and Parsons-to-Davis. Kerens-to-Parsons is about three-quarters of a mile away from completion.

Looking ahead to Corridor H being completely linked, Foster believes it will change the flow of traffic in sections of North Central West Virginia after a more direct route to Virginia and Washington, D.C. is available.

“To some degree, it’ll have some concentrations changes, I think you’ll see things like some drivers who travel I-79 all the way to I-68 and then across to I-81, they may change their trip to travel across Corridor H. So it would help reduce some of the congestion around Morgantown,” Foster said.

“I think we’ll see some pattern changes. ... Ultimately, if you’re going to Washington, D.C. from central West Virginia, online maps will route you across Corridor H. So whether you’re an 18 wheeler or a four-door passenger car, I think that kind of attraction will occur where it’s not happening now because that’ll be the shortest route,” Foster said.

It also stands to help remove some industrial traffic from more local routes.

“It’ll pull some of this big truck and industrial traffic off of these local and other routes, like U.S. 19. The trucks are using it because that’s the only through route, so all of that traffic will now be accumulated on the four lane. The local roads will now truly be local roads,” Foster said.

Smaller towns also stand to benefit from the option of development after more traffic will be coming through the area.

“The secondary development that will occur should also help the state because where there’s not enough volume today for a developer to come in and actually develop a site and bring industry, now they’ll have their testability level that allows them to look at some of these areas that traditionally haven’t had many opportunities for development,” Foster said.

“When the section to Parsons is completed and GPS systems update, the amount of traffic, which is already higher, is going to increase exponentially, and that is going to create a lot of opportunity for communities, businesses and individuals now that this area of West Virginia will be more connected than ever to a four-lane highway system,” said Robbie Morris, executive director of the Randolph County Development Authority.

Some cities along Corridor H are already seeing benefits from the increase in traffic.

“The economic impact of Corridor H for West Virginia is exponential, providing a boost to both the economy and jobs,” said Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses along this Appalachian highway system are sure to benefit from increased exposure, opening rural regions to economic development with the direct access between West Virginia and Virginia.”

“The economic activity along the route is picking up significantly,” Morris said. “You look at the communities of Weston, Buckhannon, Elkins, Moorefield, Davis and Thomas — the areas where the corridor is completed or close to it — have seen tremendous economic growth, and that is only going to continue as more and more miles are put online.” Story by Josiah Clark, WVNews


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