Corridor H: Limit It!

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

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 advocate “Fix the Roads we already have.”Naturally, bulldozers backed by corporations and politicians have more power than citizens and common sense. Currently, 101 miles of Corridor H are built and open to traffic in West Virginia.

What has been built does serve areas of some traffic, including Elkins in Randolph County and Moorefield in Hardy County. To date, an estimated $1.93 billion has been spent on Corridor H—almost twice the original budget. We ask: why not limit the project at this point?

US Sen. Joe Manchin, D- WV has forced the issue in 2021 by ramming nearly $200 million into the national infrastructure bill now in Congress for Appalachian Corridor roadbuilding in West Virginia.

Still slated for building are 31 miles, including the environmentally sensitive section from Kerens to Parsons in the Blackwater Canyon area, and in the George Washington National Forest between Wardensville and the Virginia Line. WVDOH estimates this will cost $1.10 billion in our federal tax dollar, plus a lot of damage to mountains, rivers and bypassed town economies. If completed, Corridor H would become more of a throughway from DC to I-79 than a road serving people who live in West Virginia and Virginia.

2020 Development Status and WVDOH Enviro Records

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

An 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.

Tucker County Looks at alternative northern route

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.

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. This will result in environmental impacts that damage not only the scenery but trout streams and other natural assets used by wildlife and prized by humans– locals and visitors. Waites’ Run in Wardensville, a trout stream, and other areas in Virginia such as Duck Run, would be crossed and damaged by roadbuilding.

East of Elkins, 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/

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 opportunities for more sprawl following the completion of H. Bypassing towns of Wardensville in Hardy County, and Thomas and Davis in Tucker County, will hurt the towns’ tourist and locally-controlled economies, which have developed over the last 20 years. 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.

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/

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/

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 I Front Royal, VA and the experimental Hyperloop facility near Elkins as industrial areas served. Ironically, they also claim benefits for small town tourism. Actually, the towns of Thomas, Davis and Wardensville have developed their own tourist economies through local businesses and travel councils. 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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