February 2004 Corridor H Update
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bawalker
February 16, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003
1,547 posts
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January/February 2004 Update
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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.

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 mud harms fish and stream invertebrates. Trout are especially susceptible -- sediment interferes with their breathing, feeding and breeding. To read an explanation, 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.

Here is what we've learned from the WV Division of Highways status reports, and from citizens active in each of the sections:

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Elkins to Kerens 5.5 miles
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This segment was completed and open to traffic in August 2002.


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Kerens to Parsons 13.5 miles
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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.


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Parsons to Davis (Blackwater Canyon section) 9 miles
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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.


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Davis to Bismarck 16.5 miles
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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, rogers@wvhighlands.org. Contact us regarding the following eastern sections:


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Bismarck to Forman (Greenland Gap section) 9.5 miles
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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


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Forman to Moorefield 16 miles
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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.


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Moorefield to Baker 14 miles
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The segment was opened to traffic in October 2003.


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Baker to Wardensville - 7 miles, under construction, completion early/mid 2005
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The unnatural lights atop Sandy Ridge, west of Wardensville, Hardy County, W.Va. glare into the next county. Contractors hired by the State Highway Department, are working on Corridor H, the section from Baker to Wardensville. Neighbors say the crews have broken a lot of drill bits on the unyielding quartzite. 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.


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Wardensville to VA line - 5.5 miles
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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.


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Virginia line to I-81, 14 miles
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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

(Anonymous)
February 16, 2004
sounds like all but 20 miles will be completed by the winter of 2006.Time to start working on the new ski resort!
dmh
February 16, 2004
Member since 12/11/2003
127 posts
bawalker--

I am curious what you think about what appears to be a very ambitous timeline. I know that some money is available in the current transportation bill but what do you know about funds in the transportation bill moving through Congress. Is there money and how much relative to what is needed to complete the Moorefield to Bismark leg? What do you think is a realistic projection of when Moorefield to Bismark will be completed?

RyanC
February 16, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003
160 posts
While I have mixed feelings about Corridor H, due to environmental concerns, comsidering that the Corridor H region is some of the most unspoiled wilderness in the Eastern U.S., honestly, I CAN'T WAIT until it's complete. Based on the timeline, this means that in 2.5 years (end of '06) I could painlessly spend 3 days/4 nights every week at my condo in CV, because traveling there would be such a breeze. Of course, I still have to experiment to figure out the best way in/out of DC!

What would be really nice is Amtrak or some kind of train service along the corridor so I didn't have to drive at all (until I got closer to CV)! Or better yet, an airport in Elkins with commuter flights to Dulles or Reagan National. Wonder if that will ever happen in my lifetime?

frontrange
February 16, 2004
Member since 02/16/2004
2 posts
There are some places that we'd be better off without a highway and Canaan Valley is one of them. Right now there is a limit to how many people will take the time to drive there and it keeps the crowds down- and the quality of the experience up. Plus- they want to take a highway through the Blackwater Canyon? Please- let's keep it like it is. You can't dump all of the DC metro area into a small valley like this and keep it pristine.
bawalker
February 16, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003
1,547 posts
The source I got this from which is a newsletter of one of the enviornmental groups "Potomac Stewards" is giving this as a worst case scenerio on their behalf. It is also a very aggresive timeline as promoted by WVDot and state legislatures although the reality is that the next several sections are going to be tangled up legally for some time.

It's my estimation that the Moorefield to Foreman section will be built next since there is available funding left over but the start of that could be delayed. Just recently residents in that area are fighting to keep their farms, and several large acerage plots of land from being seperated. I have heard through the grapevine living here in Hardy Co that those citizens plan on filing lawsuits against WVDOT which could delay starting of the construction by as much as 3 years. Also under a best scenerio if construction started today this section wouldn't be completed until 2006/2007. There is scheduled to be another Moorefield exit on US Rt220 in the Old Fields area and also I've heard design rumors that there would be a 1+ mile long bridge across the entire valley to keep the highway from getting flooded since that area is notorious for floows (See the 1985 & 1996 floods).

Now considering that the Moorefield-Foreman section is the one that will have the easiest time being built that doesn't give much optimism for the next few sections. Foreman to Parsons is really up in the air as to an actual start date. These areas are the most hotly contested areas of the entire highway due to the civil war significance. There are 2-3 environmental groups planning to file suit or have already filed lawsuits against the state for wanting to build a highway through there. Plus these groups are lobbying the state/national registrar's of historic landmarks to have them put large pieces of property on the registrar. If this happens that means a piece of property or building is then forever designated as a historical landmark and can never be touched. *IF* that were to happen to a farm or piece of property in the highway's path that would either halt planning of the highway or cause a major redirection of it.

Rest assured just the historical aspect of the above is going to delay construction with all of the lawsuits by at least 3-5 years. Thats not even touching on the topic of funding. I am not as familiar on the congressional stance of this highway as are some peers of mine in these enviornmental groups but in discussions I've heard that several high profile senators in congress are working to counteract Robert Byrd from receiving money for Corridor H as it is one of his pork barrel projects. Plus they are trying to divert transportation funding to more important projects like widening 325 miles I-81 to a 6 lane highway with Toll access or I-95 improvements, or even I-66 improvements.

There is alot of work going on by these groups to try and pursuade VA state and federal congressional members to cut funding off at the source... in congress. They have alot of good listening ears from what I have heard in these congressmen esp Frank Wolfe. Simply put the traffic analysis doesn't show the load of traffic for needing 4 lane access through western Fredrick County, VA or even through the proposed route.

The biggest reason Corridor H is being successful at being built is purely from the safety aspect of going from winding, twisting, and very dangerous roads (where I have lost several friends to horrific wrecks) to a straighter more safer highway.

Since Corridor H and all appilachain corridors are *NOT* interstates but rather are 'Controlled Access Roads' this means they can drop down to a 3 lane road or even a two lane road with no problem. There is a very good possibility that Corridor H could simply become a very wide 2 lane road with a 3rd passing lane on mountains in the disputed areas of Bismark. I don't forsee Bryd and others giving into this because orginial plans from the 1970's called for this to be a full interstate connecting directly onto I-66 at strasburg designating I-66 from Washington DC to I-78 at Elkins.

Even though that is no longer the case I have studied and asked around and found my suspicions to be true. For those of you who drive CH you'll notice that engineering wise it's built and drives just like an interstate and all of the federal guidelines for building an interstate are met. The only thing that isn't an approved to be on an interstate are the 2 lane access roads to Old 55. It would not surprise me in the least that in 10 years from now if Wardensville to Elkins was completed that WV would push to make it an interstate then forcing VA to try and connect it to I-66. This is just my assumptions but it would not surprise me if this was the underlying plan by those in power of WVDOT and WV.

My personal conclusion is that Moorefield -> Foreman will be done by 2008 with parts of Foreman -> Bismark still being contested. If things are settled this could possibly be finished by 2013. Elkins -> Parson's should be done around the same 2008 timeline. The way things are going now I don't forsee I-66 -> Wardensville being touched for the next 10-15 years at the earliest. Simply put don't expect a DC to Davis straight line drive until sometime around 2020.

Thoughts?

[This message has been edited by bawalker (edited 02-16-2004).]

RyanC
February 17, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003
160 posts
Here is my humble opinion on what should happen:

1) A moratorium on ALL commercial/residential development within a certain radious (sp?) of the new road, to ensure that overdevelopment and environmental degradation doesn't result. This may sound a bit snobby, but that means no tasteless, trashy suburban style McMansions (with the inevitable hoards of oversized SUVs that pollute the air en route to the McMansions), fast food joints, malls, or big box retail outlets. Let's keep the whole corridor from the Winchester area to Elkins just like it is now, except for the new road. NOTE: I would certainly be willing to get together with other CV property owners on this board to join in the fight for rural preservation of the whole corridor, where do I sign up?

2) CH doesn't have to be an interstate-grade 4 lane highway the entire way. Most of the length, a two lane divided highway with passing lanes on steep hills & mountains would do just fine. It would accomplish the main goal of safer, more efficient travel, and equally important, preserve the environment from a huge behemoth of a highway running through the area.

3) Last but not least, PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION: Amtrak or another transit company could probably use existing train tracks to cut through the region, offering much more efficient passenger service to the midwest (ie. Ohio,etc.), making a few stops along the apalachian corridor. I'm sure many skiers would take Amtrak, for example, if passenger train service was offered to say Oakland, MD (15 min. from Wisp, 40 mim. from CV). I know train service went from DC to Oakland and other areas in the corridor back in the early 1900s (about 80 years before my time). If train service was offered to areas in the corridor, I know I would just buy another cheap used car, park it at the train station (Petersburg, Elkins, Oakland, wherever) and travel back and forth via train. On another topic, it would be great if passenger train service were offered to the MD and DE beaches. That would be great, especially in the summer. As a sidenote, I think America needs another New Deal like public works initiative, not only would it help the sagging national economy, but would increase the quality of life for us all. Let's build an infrastructure for our country, NOT IRAQ!

I will say, to conclude, that Corridor H is not the most important project going on at this time. Obviously, I think solutions to solve the gridlock that plagues the Baltimore/Washington corridor is much more important, but since we're on the topic of Corridor H, I figure I'd share my opinion on the subject, since it affects many of us as either property owners or skiers/tourists in CV.


RyanC
February 17, 2004
Member since 11/28/2003
160 posts
Roger,

You definitely raise some very interesting points. I know you're right about the CSX train right of ways from first-hand experience. I experience occasional MARC train delays when commuting between Baltimore-Washington due to the fact that Amtrak has right of ways, and we therefore have to yield. Even though it will take many many years to do it right, I really do feel that some major investments in mass transit (and not just in big cities) would do us all well. I also believe if passenget train service ran out towards the midwest via Petersburg, Oakland, Elkins, etc., it would have surprisingly high usage. That would open the doors to a commuter population with high paying jobs in DC and mainly NoVa, which would in turn help the local economy.

My main concern about CH is that development will come, but at the cost of the beauty of the area (I guess that's the concern of most people), and that the jobs created by development will be low-paying ones. Sure, there will be more jobs, but quite possibly only low-paying Wal-Mart type jobs. As always, the already wealthy businesspeople and developers will benefit, along with landowners that have hundres of acres. But, on the other hand, since the road will make the DC area more accessible, I wonder if anyone has considered the fact that many people may leave the area to go 2-3 hours east, where there are more job opportunities. This could result in a population loss, as has been the case historically with WV and other appalachian states. In terms of economic development, it could be a double-edged sword. But... people may not migrate to DC considering that in terms of housing and other costs, that, hypothetically, if I moved to my condo in CV to live full-time, I could live very well on $30-40k annually, whereas I would need $70-80k or more to live comparably well in the DC area, mainly due to housing costs (among other things).

Nonetheless, there are so many possible scenarios, it should be interesting to watch this all play out over the next 5, 10, 20 years or so. And, hopefully, my property will appreciate quite a bit in the meantime...

dmh
February 17, 2004
Member since 12/11/2003
127 posts
The transportation bill that passed the Senate on Friday (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2004 (SAFE-TEA) included the following:

$2.575 bil for WV, including an earmark of $652 mil for Corridor H & D (Parkersburg to OH line bypass), although it does not break the funds out between the two. I assume the funds fro CD are modest and the bulk will be devoted to CH. Someone more informed about highway construction costs may have an opinion about how much of CH this money will buy.

The bill now goes to the House, which has even a larger overall number but I do not know how it is apportioned. Bush has issued a veiled veto threat but the margin in the Senate is sufficient to override and the House leadership is pushing a high number and the Dems are likely to support an override. We shall see.

Roger Z
February 17, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004
2,181 posts
I understand your concern about aesthetics, Ryan, and I share them. However I think they your concern and my concern for aesthetics are secondary IF there is conflict between that and a better quality of life for local residents. I won't hazard a guess about whether this is the case in the Lost River area-- oftentimes pretty scenery helps contribute to a good quality of life-- though some solutions for maintaining beauty are more costly than they are beneficial; I think a lot of planners would say that about building moratoriums.

Regarding low income jobs: first, bawalker correct me on this but isn't there already a Walmart in Moorefield? And yes, Walmart and McDonalds and the like create low income jobs but those are often a stepping stone for people to get better jobs: consider internal promotion for instance. Also a lot of low income jobs are starting to include benefits such as 401(k)s and health care which are crucial for helping people in life.

Finally, don't forget that low income jobs aren't the only things created. Every Walmart needs managers, possibly multiple managers, and with experience those can pay quite well (certainly well enough to buy a house out there!). For every gas station and fast food restaurant, distributors are needed, franchise operators are hired, distribution centers might be created, new shift workers might be needed at power plants, local governments need more employees, and local businesses are often established or grown by regional entrepreneurs to respond to increasing demand (or even a farmers market to bolster the value of regional crops!). No low-income job is stand-alone.

Growth can definitely have an environmental impact, and for that reason it is good that there are watchdog organizations like the Cacopon Institute to keep an eye on things. A good dialogue between natural resource advocates, the business community and other interested citizens is essential, as these conversations can turn acrimonious very easily. But with a good dialogue and Grant County folks looking after their own interests, I don't think we'll have to worry about Fairfax County extending to the South Branch of the Potomac River.

Roger Z
February 18, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004
2,181 posts
If there were a moratorium on any new construction in the Corridor the highway would never get built. That area is growing as a real estate site which means that property values are on the rise, which actually helps farmers and other local landowners in terms of equity. Prohibiting them from selling eviscerates their land value and would mean that Corridor H would do nothing to alleviate economic conditions from the Virginia border to Canaan Valley and would probably create near-unanimous opposotion to the highway down there.

As far as a train goes, I guess the real problem would be Amtrak negotiating with CSX about track rights out into that area. However, when CSX and Amtrak share lines that are owned by CSX, all Amtrak trains wait for CSX trains to go through, resulting in numerous delays and very poor service. Having Amtrak buy the tracks would be incredibly costly, as the value of transportation to a firm like CSX is very high. While it'd be nice to get a train running out to Oakland or some such spot, I'm worried that there is a great potential for poor service and therefore yet another economically infeasible Amtrak line.

bawalker
February 19, 2004
Member since 12/1/2003
1,547 posts
RogerZ - You are right there is a WalMart in Moorefield (actually outside) along with several other service related businesses that provide jobs mostly for students. Of course there is Pilgrims Pride chicken processing plants which employ around 50% of the eligible workforce in Hardy county. That means most people in this county travel to Moorefield to work in the chicken gutting plants or chicken catching trucks while most of management is brought in from outside states by the parent company. As for the 'floor' jobs for those at the bottom of the rung who actually do the brunt of the work, those are mostly high school students from the area. They of course step up and end up leaving for college letting the next class come in and fill those jobs. For those who don't work in Moorefield and live on that side of the county, the rest travel to Keyser and or I-68 to Cumberland for work. Those on the Wardensville side head to Winchester, Leesburg, or even Washington DC. My friends mom drives nearly 2 hours to Leesburg one direction and back every day. And don't forget those in the Mathias area head directly to Harrisonburg/Broadway/Timberville areas for jobs. I am pretty certain that Corridor H wouldn't cause much to change jobwise other than shifting who can work where.

The flip side of that is I am of course only talking about incomplete sections of CH. All of the conservation groups as well as a large number of CH supporters (myself included) do NOT want CH connecting with VA at any cost. The main reason for that is once CH breaks into VA and connects with 81 or 66 the floodgates will have opened giving northern Virginia folk easy access to Hardy County and most points westward. The moment that happens Hardy county will never again be the same peaceful quiet area that it is. I can imagine it now... CH goes from 81 to Davis and wardnesville goes from a town of 300 to 5200 with most local land being devoured by developers. My quiant little 9 home neighborhood outside of Wardensville turns into a sprawl pushing 30+ home neighborhood where none of the other 21 house residents are not my relatives. I'm sorry but most people here have seen what has happened to Loudon county and are refusing to let Hardy county suffer the same fate. That is now being shown by a new program here that is encouraging farmers to sign up to see that their land is protected from future development and remains strictly farmland. A farming neighbor of mine just signed up their 500 acre family farm to get federal/state funding along with tax easements in order to encourage more farming and no development. I am not sure of the specifics but look for alot of farmers in Hardy Co to get with those program to protect their land.

Ok I definately am biased on it, but the whole purpose of the conservation groups and residents is to now keep CH from ever reaching into VA and to have at least one major break between Moorefield and Elkins to ensure that a complete CH is never realized keeping the current way of life... the only way of life for generations to come. That may sound corny and to alot of you and kind of strange since who wouldn't want a better way of life, right? Amazingly alot of families in this area like their current income and status of life as long as it means keeping quiet and peaceful area to live in where more people are realtives than not.

Growth is coming, there is no doubt about that but it is how that is handled that scares me. For those of you who don't know Wardensville just built a dollar general store and finally is looking to get a Cingular Cell tower by Q4 `04. More homes are being built... thankfully it's of the kids of the older folk so it's not a complete group of strangers. Also the county commission is looking to create special zoning ordances that prohibits the amount of growth or commercial development that can be done in the county to discourage developers from coming this way. We all want a faster way to CV and Timberline and hopefully Mt Porte Crayon, but before that happens local residents are going to see that CH only offers a little growth at most.

Roger Z
February 19, 2004
Member since 01/16/2004
2,181 posts
Thanks for the post bawalker. My only concern really was flat out moratoriums on development; those are often not very beneficial to farmers at all. The flip side is it is very difficult to sustain economically viable farms while simulataneously curbing development-- I wish you guys the best of luck and am glad to hear that farmers are signing up to preserve their land.

For the record, Wardensville is a great town and it'd be nice if it could retain as much of its quaintness, charm, and friendliness as it possibly can. I've always especially liked the hospitality there, and would hate (because of development or what not) to start getting hostile stares when I walk into that restaurant on the corner of Route 55 and "Main Street" (I always forget the name; it's on the east side of town about a half mile out). There's enough places like that in Pennsylvania. In general, West Virginia (as well as much of western Virginia) is a remarkably friendly and easy going state and that's one of the best reasons for going out there (well, and all the outdoors stuff too!).

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