Corridor H is a highway being built through the heart of senic West Virginia. We believe it to be a tremendouly wasteful and destructive use of our tax dollars. Concerned citizen groups and indiviuals have been fighting the constuction of this highway since 1996. The West Virgina Division Of Highways (WVDOH) has a pro-constuction website on Corridor H that includes project timeline with details on the various suits, appeals, and settlements.
January 2004 Update
The Division of Highways continues to grind away at our beautiful hills and to fill our meandering valleys. A drive on Route 55 west from Wardensville to Moorefield reveals a scene of demoralizing devastation–a succession of deep cuts and huge fills creating an ugly, unnatural moonscape with towering monoliths ruining the scenic beauty of Hanging Rock and The Sinks. And then there is the environmental degradation. Hurricane Isabel and the more recent storms have shown what happens when the thin natural cover is removed and newer, steeper slopes manufactured: severe runoff and excessive silting of the adjacent streams and rivers. The dollar costs have continued to rise, too, as work crews have had to contend with both the hard quartzite of Sandy Ridge and the more porous karst further west.
Right now, the completed sections of the road are from Elkins to Kerens in the west and Moorefield to Baker in the east. The last part from Crites Store to Cunnigham Lane was just opened. In the Baker to Wardensville section, the roadbeds are complete and partially paved The bridges are not expected to be finished until early 2005. Only then will that section be opened.
DOH plans to proceed now with the Forman to Moorefield section where they have begun to acquire land and let contracts, and for which they have existing funds. As for the remaining sections, everything hinges on how much money will be appropriated in the new transportation bill. In the case of the Wardensville to Virginia line section, DOH must still adhere to a legal settlement with Corridor H Alternatives. In particular, DOH must demonstrate a specific volume of traffic before it can build that section. We at Stewards will continue to monitor this situation and may hire our own traffic consultant to check the department’s figures.
As for the benefits, local opinion is mixed. We can now all drive more easily, and probably more safely to Moorefield. But people are also concerned about increased real estate development that is partially a product of the road and what it will mean for the rural character of the area. And will the road produce the larger economic benefits that were claimed for it? Stay tuned.
Stewards of the Potomac Highlands and West Virginia Rivers Coalition, along with local citizen plaintiffs, filed suit in November 2001 against WVDOH for their failure to follow regulations designed to limit construction runoff. The department admitted their error and changed the design of their sediment ponds. Neil Gillies, chief scientist at Cacapon Institute has done an excellent web page on construction sediment. Basically, sediment runoff–plain old mudharms fish and stream invertebrates. Trout are especially susceptible — sediment interferes with their breathing, feeding and breeding. To read an explanation and see the ugly pictures of Corridor H, go to www.cacaponinstitute.org.
Unfortunately, these lawsuits have only delayed, not stopped, construction/destruction in the sensitive Lost River watershed, which is honeycombed with caves and offers some of the state’s most scenic views. And the cuts and fills are so drastic that even the best sediment ponds cannot stop all the runoff. Take a drive on Route 55 in Hardy County, and Route 219 east of Elkins, and see the destruction for yourself. It’s starting to look a lot like the southern coalfields.
Here is what we’ve learned from the WV Division of Highways status reports, and from citizens active in each of the sections:
Elkins to Kerens 5.5 miles
This segment was completed and open to traffic in August 2002.
Kerens to Parsons 13.5 miles
WVDOH is studying re-routes for this sections which include Corricks Ford and Shavers Fork. The Jan. 31 status report said they were to issue a Record of Decision in April-nearly two years later than they stated in 2001. They have no dates for beginning final design, right of way acquisition or construction. Corridor H Alternatives, commenting on the final Environmental Impact Statement, noted that the completed section from Elkins to Kerens generated 2.5 times more excess excavation than the preliminary designs had indicated. If the actual land disturbance is that much greater than planned, it follows none of the environmental impact statements will turn out to be accurate, and damage is much more extensive than WVDOH said during the environmental evaluation process.
Parsons to Davis (Blackwater Canyon section) 9 miles
WVDOH planned to issue a final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision in the summer of 2001, and now they plan this for December 2003. They have no dates for beginning of final design and right of way acquisition, or construction. This section will be seriously challenged by environmental groups, since it runs through the Monongahela National Forest as well as the Canyon. In the minutes of the Thomas/Davis community committee in summer 2002, DOH engineers told the group that their section would be build last, in maybe nine years, and that finishing the rest of H will cost from $3 to 6 billion.
Davis to Bismarck 16.5 miles
WVDOH issued the Record of Decision for this flat section paralleling Route 93 in March 2001. Its “estimated” dates for beginning final design are July 2001, and right of way acquisition “estimated” to begin in October 2003.
Citizens interested in monitoring and contesting the above western sections should contact Hugh Rogers, Corridor H Alternatives, at PO Box 11, Kerens WV 26276, 304-636-2662, email@example.com. Contact us regarding the following eastern sections:
Bismarck to Forman (Greenland Gap section) 9.5 miles
Record of Decision issued in July 2001. WVDOH says it plans to start acquiring right of way in June 2003, let contracts in August 2004, start construction September 2004, completion in Sept. 2006. Greenland Gap activists led by Debbie Kunkel, after documenting the Gap’s civil war history and natural features, persuaded the highway deparment to move the alignment a quarter mile away from the gap, reducing noise and air pollution there and sparing several houses in the village of Greenland. A mile-long access road was also eliminated between Greenland and Route 93, and the exit will be two miles north of Scherr onto Route 93, instead of at Greenland. The revived Grant County Historical Society has helped obtain grants to restore an old school house at Scherr. For more information contact Kunkelatgap@mountain.net
Forman to Moorefield 16 miles
Record of Decision issued in July 2001. Final design was done in September 2002, right of way acquisition began July 2002. WVDOH has begun to let bids out for contract and began consctruction summer 2003. They plan to complete it in late 2006. Citizens in this area are protesting Corridor H’s bisecting of several farms and are pushing WVDOH to follow along the old Forman Road instead.
Moorefield to Baker 14 miles
The segment was opened to traffic in October 2003.
Baker to Wardensville – 7 miles, under construction, completion early 2005
This View Is HistoryThe unnatural lights atop Sandy Ridge, west of Wardensville, Hardy County, W.Va. glare into the next county. Contractors hired by the State Highway Department, with our tax dollars, are working on Corridor H, the section from Baker to Wardensville. Huge bulldozers prowl day and night, even in the dead of winter, to satisfy the cravings of politicians and poultry bigwigs and large trucking firms. They have torn apart once-majestic cliffs and forests and once-peaceful farms along Route 55 by the Lost River, in order to impose their straightened, sterile four lane road on the landscape. The view from Hanging Rock pictured to left will forever be marred by this monstrosity.
Neighbors say the crews have broken a lot of drill bits on the unyielding quartzite. Tourists stare at the tower of bare earth above what used to be Lost River Sinks, the suburban-looking access turn at Sauerkraut Road, and the torn-up hill opposite Hanging Rock, and think they are seeing mountaintop removal coal mining. All this for a road far from existing towns and cities, in an area with little traffic. Cost: over $15 million a mile. Another sacrifice to the great god of Petroleum Consumption.
The earth carnage will stop, at least for several years, in a nonsensical spot just west of Wardensville where the Section 4, Baker-to-Wardensville, ends, and the Wardensville-to-Virginia line, Section 3, begins. Virginia has so far refused to build its 14 mile section which would go to Interstate 81; it’s not on the state’s six-year plan. If West Virginia’s money holds out, it will finish the 21 miles from Moorefield to Wardensville. The highwaymen have set their sights on building west from Moorefield next.
Wardensville to VA line – 5.5 miles
WVDOH estimates the Record of Decision will be issued this year, but final design, right of way acquisition and construction are undetermined. Construction will be deferred for up to 20 years, in accordance with the agreement signed with Corridor H Alternatives in February 2000. A rise in traffic could trigger earlier construction, so Stewards are monitoring this issue.
In that February 2000 agreement, Wardensville was promised $1 million for capital improvements to compensate for damage from Corridor H to the town’s economy. A citizens planning committee met in 2002, and had joint sessions with WVDOH, using a facilitator sponsored by Canaan Valley Institute, to determine how the town should best spend the money for sidewalks, trails, drainage and spot beautification. However, the town in a letter raised serious questions about Corridor H impacts, such as access roads to downtown; the impact on the spring that supplies town water; and impact on the town park. They want this to be part of the planning process, and WVDOH wants to put these issues off til final design.Click here to see scans of the letters back and forth between the Town of Wardenville and the West Virginia Department of Highways.
Virginia line to I-81, 14 miles
Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board, as a result of citizen protest and opposition by Rep. Frank Wolf, voted in 1994 not to build this section. West Virginia’s strategy is to complete its 100 miles and dump the traffic onto two-lane Route 55 at the state line, forcing the building of four lanes to connect with I-81 That’s why Virginians should stay aware…and support any opposition to Corridor H in West Virginia and in Congress!
More on Corridor H
These links will provide more information about this project and the efforts to stop it.
The Green Scissors Campaign has a good overview of what this road is and why construction should stop.
Corridor H Alternatives pioneered the fight against Corridor H and is primarily concerned with the West (Elkins) end.
The Cacapon Institute has pictures and information on the impact of the construction on the Lost and Cacapon Rivers.
The West Virginia Division of Highways presents their version of reality. Since your tax dollars paid for this site you may as well see what they have to say.
Other Roads, Other Fights
The Montgomery Intercounty Connector Coalition is a volunteer, grassroots, non-profit coalition of civic associations, homeowners groups, and individuals that is opposed to the ICC, a proposed portion of an “outer beltway” outside of Washington, DC in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties in Maryland.
Virginians for Appropriate Rural Roads is opposed to I-73, an interstate proposed to run from Michigan to South Carolina, crossing Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina along the way.
Copyright © 2005 Stewards of the Potomac Highlands, Inc. All Rights Reserved.