Corridor H development moves forward without Va.

Recent years have seen a re-prioritization by West Virginia officials to complete the Appalachian Development Highway System’s Corridor H within the state. Meant to stretch from Interstate 79 to the inland port in Front Royal, the project has been ongoing for decades.

The Appalachian Regional Commission published the Appalachian Development Highway System Completion Plan Report in September 2013 and gave an estimated completion date of 2026 for Virginia’s portion — 14.4 miles of the corridor along Route 55 in Shenandoah County.

However, according to Sandy Myers, communications manager for the Staunton District of Virginia Department of Transportation,  “As of this date there is nothing in the Virginia Department of Transportation six-year plan to create a project or develop plans for Corridor H in Virginia.”

She also noted that “we do not see anything happening with the project in the foreseeable future, but we also caution that things can change.”

The Virginia Department of Transportation and Commonwealth Transportation Board looked into developing the road in the 1990s, but ultimately scrapped the project due to a lack of public support.

This new push in West Virginia came about due to the implementation of Public-Private Partnership financing plans, commonly referred to as P3. These plans allow construction to be done sooner by having private companies finance the project and then be paid back by the state.

West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has supported the use of P3, leading to several new stretches of the highway being completed in the past two years. A 4.4-mile portion extending from Tucker to Grant County was just finished in May.

According to Robbie Morris, chair of the Robert C. Byrd Corridor H Authority, work on the next section of road most likely will begin next spring. A 7.5-mile stretch, it will run from Kerens in Randolph County, West Virginia,  into Tucker County, between Elkins and Parsons, West Virginia.

The Corridor H Authority has been working to move up the proposed completion date for the project. The Appalachian Regional Commission, which oversees the Appalachian Development Highway System, has estimated that the corridor should be completed by 2036. Members of the Corridor H Authority believe that date is too far out.

“It’s unacceptable, so we’ve been trying to push completion in a fiscally responsible way,” said Morris.

In 2013, they commissioned an economic impact study that reported completing the corridor by 2020 would generate $1.25 billion in new revenue for West Virginia. The goal for the completed highway is for it to serve as a direct path for exports from the state. It is also believed that it will increase tourism and lead to new businesses along the route.

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