Corridor H: Limit It!

LOST: This View of Hanging Rock near Baker, WV, on Route 55 now dwarfed by Corridor H bridge.

WVDOH Chief Not a Fan of Bumblebees

Archived video of WVDOT secretary Jimmy Wriston: Sept. 11 2022’s W.Va. legislative oversight committee, the discussion on Corridor H starts at the 5:16:00 mark. Wriston railed against Federal Highway Administration and US Fish and Wildlife Service for doing their jobs to regulate their proposed bulldozing. Asked by a legislator about the faulty piers and damage to houses and wells done by the Kerens to Parsons construction, Wriston promised to plan ahead to avoid such wreckage in sections now proposed for construction. We ask you, the citizens, to join us in holding him accountable.

Wardensville holds info meeting Oct. 2022 , another planned for Dec. 4

On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 30, 2022, Wardensville Visitor Center, 301 E. Main St., Stewards will join area residents seeking answers to the question: What would be the pros and cons, the local impact of Corridor H?

Heidi Flynn, who organized the meeting, said the discussion shed light on the consequences our town could incur during construction, and after the completion of Corridor H through and around Wardensville . “We aim to bring residents together so we can have clarity concerning the impact of Corridor H, without politicians, without gaslighting, and without financial motive.”

Those whose property is a part of the right-of-way purchase, we are doing our best to find assistance and guidance at no cost to the home/landowners, she said.

Everyone in and out of Wardensville is invited to submit comments to the WV Div. of Highways . You may comment onli​ne or in writing. Comments are du​e by Thursday, December 12, 2022. See news story below.

More info at the “No to Corridor H” Facebook page.

Come the Dec. 4, 2022 meeting, 2-4 p.m. at the War Memorial Bldg. on Main Street: https://www.facebook.com/groups/487987436499810

Send your comment to WVDOH by Dec. 12

After a public meeting (please click for links to WVDOH handouts and docs) in Wardensville Aug. 18, and Stewards’ submission of a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requesting more info on the environmental impacts of the proposed construction the Federal Highway Administration and WV Division of Highways have extended the public comment period for this corridor H section first to Nov. 3, and now to Dec. 12, 2022–the same date that public comments are also due for the Tucker County section.

You may comment onli​ne or in writing. Those wishing to file written comments may send them to WVDOH: Mr. Travis Long, Director, Technical Support Division, WV Division of Highways, 1334 Smith St., Charleston, WV 25301. Send a copy to the Federal Highway Administration: Jason Workman, Director of Program Development, FHWA, 154 Court St., Charleston, WV 25301. Also if you have time, send a copy to U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, who are responsible for obtaining federal highway money.

Stewards submitted the following comment earlier this year:

Regarding the Wardensville to Virginia Line section of Corridor H,  Aug. 18, 2022:

Stewards of the Potomac Highlands, a 501c4 nonprofit citizens group in West Virginia’s northeastern counties dedicated to protecting our natural environment and supporting an environmentally and socially sustainable, locally-controlled economy, submits the following comment for the public meeting  on Corridor H in Wardensville on Aug. 18, 2022. After obtaining information through this process, Stewards plans to file a more extensive comment.

Stewards does not see a need to build the section of Corridor H from Wardensville to the Virginia line.  The two purposes given by WVDOH for Corridor H contradict each other: “improving east-west travel and promoting economic development in the region,” which we understand to be: getting traffic through the area vs. benefitting the local economy.  During the past 20 years since the Corridor H Final EIS and Record of Decision, Wardensville has developed a robust tourist and local agricultural economy which will not benefit and will probably be harmed by having traffic bypass the town and rush through the area.  Traffic counts are under 5000 and do not appear to justify a four-lane highway in this area.  Virginia has not announced any plans to build its section to I-66.   The availability of federal money, rather than true purpose and need, as indicated in public statements by WVDOH officials, appears to be motivating WVDOH’s 2022 push for construction.

There may be ways to build Corridor H to have the least negative impact on the local economy, forests, streams, groundwater and trails. We will offer further comments later in the comment period ending Sept. 19.   We expect to receive helpful information in our FOIA request submitted to WVDOH June 30, 2022, acknowledged by Jill C. Dunn of WVDOH’s Legal Division on July 18, 2022.  I wrote a follow up email to Ms. Dunn on Aug. 15 but have yet to receive a response.  We urge WVDOH to provide us with substantive answers to our FOIA letter as soon as possible.

Because we lack substantive environmental information on which to base our comments, we request a 45 day extension of the comment period from Sept. 19 to Nov. 3.  If we have not received a substantial response to our FOIA by then, we plan to request another extension.

NOTE: No information was forthcoming from WVDOH, and FHWA has granted another extension of the comment period to Dec. 12, 2022.

Why Oppose Corridor H in 2022?

As Stewards of the Potomac Highlands said 20 years ago in our first newsletter of 2001, a billion-dollar four-lane rural highway from Elkins to I-66 is a waste of money. We’re with folks who say “Fix the Roads we already have.”

US Sen. Joe Manchin, D- WV has forced the issue in 2021 by ramming nearly $200 million into the national infrastructure bill for Appalachian Corridor roadbuilding in West Virginia. Corridor H now costs $24 to $50 million a mile to build.

Currently, 101 miles of Corridor H are built and open to traffic in West Virginia. Virginia has no plans to build its part, as shown by the absence of Corridor H in local and state transportation plans. Corridor H is still a “Road to Nowhere.”

What has been built does serve areas of some traffic, including Elkins in Randolph County and Moorefield in Hardy County. We ask: why not limit the project at this point?

Still slated for building are 31 miles, including the environmentally sensitive section from Parsons to Davis in the Blackwater Canyon area, and in the George Washington National Forest between Wardensville and the Virginia Line. If completed, Corridor H would mainly serve as throughway for goods from DC to I-79 rather than serving people who live in West Virginia and Virginia. That’s the purpose stated by politicians and economic developers pushing the four-lane: https://youtu.be/EFexGOjNfJg

Corridor H in the News

Raising H– in 2022

WASHINGTON POST:  Destroying what people come here for?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2022/10/09/west-virginia-corridor-h-blackwater-falls/

WBOY TV report : Gov. Justice talking to Virginia on Cor H (but what are they saying?)

The latest on West Virginia’s top highway project, Corridor H? (wboy.com)

Capito in 2020 brags she got discretionary $$  for Cor H:   ICYMI: Capito Op-Ed Outlines Efforts to Expedite Construction of Corridor H (senate.gov)

Thomas, Davis consider supporting northern route through Tucker County:

Public has chance to comment on Corridor H Parsons to Davis Project next month | WBOY.com

Metro News: July 2022: A better route?

Tucker County residents seek “better route” for Corridor H in Davis-Thomas area – WV MetroNews

WV Spotlight highlights Corridor H Alternatives’ “Go North” proposed reroute: https://mountainstatespotlight.org/2022/11/15/thomas-davis-corridor-h-highway-wv/

2020 Development Status and WVDOH Enviro Records

Click to see WVDOH’s Corridor H page, with maps and enviro statements going back to 1992: mahttps://transportation.wv.gov/highways/major-projects/Corridor-H/route/Pages/Wardensville-to-Virginia.aspx

A design alternative?

Corridor K in North Carolina and Tennessee is being built different than the standard four-lane, to better serve local residents and avoid damage to Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests thanks to an agreement with the highway department negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center. Sections of the project include improvements to existing rural roads. So– it can be done.

Corridor K should be a model for well planned mountain highway projects: https://wayssouth.org/corridor-k-should-be-a-model-for-future-highway-projects/

Tucker County Looks at alternative northern route; sign the petition

Watch new VIDEO explaining how a northern route can avoid splitting the twin towns of Thomas and Davis, and avoid some environmental and historical impacts in the Blackwater Canyon area.

Over 3000 residents and patrons of Thomas-Davis area businesses have signed a petition in favor of the northern reroute. WVDOH has responded by scheduling a public info workshop 4-7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 12, 2022 at the Blackwater Falls State Park Conference Room in Davis according to this Elkins Inter-mountain article

SIGN THE Go North PETITION HERE on Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/a-better-route-for-corridor-h

Wardensville: Traffic Doesn’t Justify

Traffic needs do not justify a four-lane road here. Traffic count maps from 2015 https://gis.transportation.wv.gov/aadt/ show much of the traffic on already-built Corridor H sections between Baker (west of Wardensville) and the Virginia line are sparsely traveled–well under 5,000 vehicles per day. In the busier sections around Elkins and Moorefield, WVDOH maps show the main roads with range of 5,000 to 50,000 vehicles per day. This range is too broad to make sense in a decision on whether a four-lane is really needed.

Meanwhile, we still need many other roads and bridges fixed. A 2017 report by the nonprofit transport group TRIP showed nearly 30% of major West Virginia roads in poor condition. https://www.wowktv.com/archives/most-west-virginia-major-roads-in-poor-condition/

Climate Issues from Roadbuilding

A report by US Public Interest Research Group points out that new highways will not help us address climate change—a major threat in hilly West Virginia, as anyone who’s seen one of our floods and severe storms of the past few years can tell you.

For one thing, production of cement — a key material for highway construction — alone contributed 8 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions in 2016. 

Moreover, expanding roads entrenches a transportation system responsible for massive pollution. More roads means more driving, and more driving means more pollution. For instance, RMI’s 2021 analysis of the Colorado transportation spending plan estimates that the increase in driving caused by new road construction would increase greenhouse gas emissions by 8 to 15 million tons of CO2-equivalent cumulatively through 2050. 

Senator Manchin is one of the corporate Democrats now working in Congress to delay policies which would cut back on fossil fuel use. He made his money on coal. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/sep/30/joe-manchin-climate-coal-baron-stocks

A national “fix it first” road policy debated earlier in 2021 for the infrastructure bill seems to have been dropped, thanks to those who would profit by building bigger roads

https://uspirg.org/blogs/blog/usp/america-can%E2%80%99t-handle-more-highways-let%E2%80%99s-fix-what-we-have-instead

“Fix it First” Fact Sheet:

Local Damage to Streams, Habitat, Towns

To avoid the expense and unpopular hassle of taking private property, WVDOH tends to design its destructive projects on National Forest land. In the Wardensville-to state line section in Hardy County, this will result in damage not only to the scenery but trout streams and other natural assets used by wildlife and prized by humans– locals and visitors. Waites’ Run and Trout Run, high quality trout streams around Wardensville, would be crossed and damaged by roadbuilding, and the Tuscarora Trail (an Appalachian Trail spur) would be affected. Effects on groundwater, including the well that supplies the whole town of Wardensville, are even more profound due to the karst terrain, which is rated top level in its sensitivity to ground disturbance. Further, the new road would divert traffic from the town’s thriving Main Street economy based on heritage tourism in the charming historic districts.

In Tucker County, the Blackwater Canyon area between Parsons and Thomas (home to endangered species including the Big Eared Virginia Bat,) are slated for extensive damage from road destruction. Friends of Blackwater Canyon has submitted environmental impact comments. https://saveblackwater.org/corridor-h-comments/ Bypassing the twin towns of Davis and Thomas and Davis will hurt the towns’ tourist and locally-controlled economies which have built up over the last 20 years

Another longtime statewide enviro group, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, continues to monitor the court settlement which has slowed down Corridor H destruction for 20 years. https://wvhighlands.org/highways

Secondary damage would come from the sprawl which follows the completion of four-lanes such as the section of Corridor H around Moorefield, and Corridor G outside Charleston. H. . Corridor H will whisk travelers on by instead of encouraging them to stop in the towns, and will benefit gas stations and convenience stops outside of town. The towns themselves need infrastructure improvements more than they need a new highway.

Status of Corridor H, 2022

PAVING CONTRACT, Elkins to Parsons:

https://www.wdtv.com/2021/02/25/paving-work-to-begin-on-section-of-corridor-h/ From Kerens, east of Elkins in Randolph County, to east of Parsons, Tucker County where the corridor connects with Route 219, a contract for 7.5 miles of asphalt paving has been awarded to West Virginia Paving Inc., with a low bid of $29,970,497.14. The winning bid for the project was more than $6.5 million under the West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) Engineer’s Estimate of $36,516,269.10. https://governor.wv.gov/News/press-releases/2021/Pages/Gov.-Justice-announces-award-of-Corridor-H-paving-project-from-Kerens-to-Parsons-a-Roads-To-Prosperity-project.aspx

Corridor H backers in West Virginia, such as Corridor H Authority https://corridorh.com/ , are drooling over Manchin’s prospective infusion of dollars.

PARSONS TO DAVIS: Blackwater Canyon at stake

But environmental groups may well sue to block construction if WVDOH sticks to its “preferred alternative” for the Parsons to Davis section–an alignment which would damage the towns of Thomas and Davis and the Blackwater Canyon area. https://wvhighlands.org/article/corridor-h-whose-highway/

Residents and patrons of businesses in Davis and Thomas are trying for a northern reroute: https://mountainstatespotlight.org/2022/11/15/thomas-davis-corridor-h-highway-wv/

WHAT ABOUT VIRGINIA?

West Virginia highway officials have long announced they intend to more-or-less force Virginia to build its section of Corridor h by bringing increased east-west traffic to the state line. https://www.wvpress.org/breaking-news/corridor-h-finishing-still-west-virginia-priority/

However, Virginia does not necessarily agree. The Commonwealth Transportation Board passed a resolution opposed to the construction of four-lane Corridor H within its borders (Final EIS 1996, Vol II, Appendix A).

In October 2022, Shenandoah County’s Board of Supervisors renewed a similar resolution: “There appear to be no benefits to the citizens of Shenandoah County. In fact we believe that building an Interstate of this magnitude to the Virginia Line would have significant adverse impacts on communities in Shenandoah County, and this must be considered before construction of the 6.8 mile section proposed from Wardensville, WV to the Virginia state line.”

FLAWED ECONOMIC PURPOSE

The Appalachian Corridor highway building program is based on a 1960s economic concept that building roads would create jobs. When such corridors connect two rural highways rather than large cities, experience has shown they don’t help towns, but create sprawl development. This destroys historic assets and more forest and farmland, and encourages more automobile driving.

Corridor H Authority claims Corridor H will create 574 West Virginia jobs annually They cite Inland Port in Front Royal, VA and the experimental Hyperloop facility near Elkins as industrial areas served. Ironically, they also claim benefits for small town tourism. Corridor H would chiefly harm the towns by causing traffic to bypass them.

Stewards continue to advocate that highway infrastructure budgets go toward safety improvements to the network of existing Potomac Highlands roads.

We are sharing with the public what we know about this wasteful and destructive project.

Cor. H. 2020 status map closeup (click to zoom)

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