By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
A common question on many people’s minds tends to be “When will all of the sections of Corridor H will be complete and finally connected?” A meeting to address just that was held at the Blackwater Conference Center by the West Virginia Department of Highways. There were no formal addresses made, however packets of information were handed out along with display boards for viewing and representatives available for questions to be asked.
The purpose of this meeting was to update the public regarding environmental studies and the preferred route of the highway. This section will be approximately ten miles that begins east of Parsons near Mackeyville Road and connects to the completed section of Corridor H along Route 93 in Davis. There are two potential connectors, one near TCHS and a two lane truck bypass of downtown Thomas.
This project began environmental and engineering studies between 1990 and 1996 followed by legal challenges from 1996 to 2000. The results of these legal matters were taking the 100 mile alignment and dividing it into nine projects, seven of which are either open or under construction. Between 2000 and 2001, the section to connect Parsons to Davis began its environmental studies with a draft being approved between 2002 and 2003. In the years of 2003 and 2004, additional studies were performed and two alternate reports were produced. Also between 2000 and 2006, Endangered Species Act activities were completed with the US Fish and Wildlife service to study the potential impact on the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel. In 2007, the final supplemental EIS was approved but in 2008 the project was put on hold.
Now, eleven years later, the WVDOH and Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) are re-starting the project though additional environmental and engineering studies are being required. Coordination has already begun with the necessary agencies. The final design is anticipated to begin in 2025 with tentatively scheduled construction to begin in 2031.
Tucker County Commission President Lowell Moore was present and said, “I totally support Corridor H. For progress, we need it.” As individuals cycled through the room viewing the maps to gauge the proposed route, they had an opportunity to speak with several DOH employees, such as Engineering Construction Section Head, Dirar Ahmad. He has been involved with this project since the beginning of its existence back in the late 1980’s to early 90’s when it was just a discussion. “It’s a good thing we did not lose focus and we’re still looking to complete the project,” he said. “This is the last major section of Corridor H.”
Ahmad explained that the goal for the meeting was to obtain the public’s input explaining, “This is one of the most challenging sections environmentally.” He stated the state representatives in Washington D.C. as well as in Charleston are really pushing for the project to go through. It’s a prize for all in West Virginia,” Ahmad said. “Anytime we have good highways and infrastructure it brings economic growth and it will open up our beautiful state.” He concluded, “We strongly believe in balance which means preserving our beautiful resources our Lord gave us and this also allows for sharing with others.”
Jay Hayes, a member of the Corridor H Authority from Lewis County was for the completion of the project as well. He explained that he and others were appointed by the Governor to serve as an advisory committee for those counties affected by the highway. Hayes is also a business owner who feels the completion of this project will aid in the welfare of the businesses near the highway. “It’s definitely needed,” he explained. “It takes so long for shipments as a business owner,” he added.
Another citizen at the forum stated he is for the completion of the project; however he noted how all of the maps were labeled as “preferred alternate routes.” His main request was to see the other options considered to allow for locals to comment on which they felt would be the best option for those citizens who live in the areas affected the most.
People came and went for the entirety of the public meeting with questions being asked and answers being provided. For those in attendance, they were provided a comment form they could fill out and submit in writing, which is due by September 20. For anyone who wasn’t able to attend but would like to find project information and comment sheets, they can do so by visiting http://gowv.gov/dotcomment and click on Corridor H – Parsons to Davis.