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Ceremonial groundbreaking to mark Corridor H progress

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The construction of Corridor H is pressing on, and a ceremonial groundbreaking today in Davis is scheduled to observe the latest round of construction.

About 20 miles of new four-lane highway will link Davis in Tucker County to existing highway just west of Scherr in Grant County. This section will largely parallel W.Va. 93.

"This creates a great deal of additional access for commerce," said Curtis Wilkerson, spokesman for Orion Consulting LLC, which represents the Corridor H Authority.

The Davis-to-Scherr section is already under construction, making the groundbreaking purely ceremonial. Work is expected to wrap up in late 2013 or early 2014.

The new section of Corridor H will link to the existing eastern section of the highway, which runs from Wardensville in Hardy County and near the Virginia state line, to just outside of Scherr. This part of the road has opened in stages during the last decade.

The other part of Corridor H, from I-79 near Weston to just north of Elkins, is an older section built mostly in the 1970s and 1980s.

Wilkerson said construction has already improved economic conditions in nearby communities like Buckhannon and Moorefield.

"There's a lot of economic development going on," he said. "It's really impressive."

Once the road is open to Davis, three sections will remain. The first, and least controversial, is a five-mile section from Wardensville to the Virginia state line. The other two sections, one in Virginia from the state line to I-81 and a section from Kerens (near Elkins) to Davis, have been slow to get off the ground.

In the case of the Virginia section, the reason is that the government of Virginia decided not to fund its portion of the road. It may eventually opt to do so once West Virginia completes construction on its side.

Construction on the Kerens-to-Davis section, however, has faced funding issues and was further held up because part of the highway would run near environmentally sensitive areas of the state that draw thousands of tourists each year, including Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley.

Regulations associated with the project dictate that no part of Corridor H may be built without connecting to an existing section. That rule avoids building sections of highway that become isolated if the project is canceled - like a four-lane section of U.S. 33 east of Elkins, known locally as "the racetrack."

When that part was built in the 1970s, Corridor H was routed due east of Elkins, following U.S. 33. That routing was later changed.

The entire highway in West Virginia is officially scheduled to be finished in 2036, Wilkerson said, but the Corridor H Authority is pushing for 2020.

Corridor H is the only remaining piece of the Appalachian Development Highway System left to be built in the state. Other corridors are Corridor D, which is U.S. 50 from Clarksburg to Parkersburg; Corridor E, which is I-68 from Morgantown to Hancock, Md.; Corridor G, which is U.S. 119 from Charleston to Pikeville, Ky.; Corridor L, which is U.S. 19 from Sutton to Beckley; and Corridor Q, which runs from Christiansburg, Va., to Pikeville, Ky., and includes parts of U.S. routes 19, 52 and 460 in southern West Virginia.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.


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