July 23, 2011

Locals praise Sens. Manchin, Rockefeller | The Elkins Inter-Mountain

The Corridor H Authority, a West Virginia agency that has passionately and repeatedly touted the virtues of Corridor H to anyone who would listen, praised U.S. Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin, both D-W.Va., and Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, for introducing a bill that would allow existing funds to complete the Mountain State's portion of the highway.  

Seventy-five percent of Corridor H, a highway that eventually will link I-79 at Weston with I-81 near Front Royal, Virginia, will be complete within the next 18 months. The Corridor H Authority has been working closely with the Hardwood Alliance Zone, a seven-county coalition that promotes the hardwood industry in North-Central West Virginia and the Potomac Highlands, to seek funding sources to complete the highway in a timely manner. Rockefeller, Manchin and Shelby have introduced a bill that North-Central West Virginia and the Potomac Highlands residents have been seeking, said Steve Foster, Chairman of the Corridor H Authority.

"This is an amazing day. The message that we can construct this highway with existing funds has been heard by the people and by the Senate," Foster said.

"You can't overstate what the completion of Corridor H will mean to our region. Corridor H links I-79 to the junction of I-66 and I-81 where the Virginia Inland Port is located," Foster said. "This gives us direct access to the port at Norfolk, where deep draught ships coming through the Panama Canal after the 2014 dredging will anchor. This will expand our exports."

Corridor H is the last section of Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) projects in West Virginia. ADHS is the system of highways within the "Appalachian counties" of the 13 states that comprise the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The ADHS was conceived in the early 1960s. Of the original 3,090 ADHS-designated miles, 85 percent is complete. The money targeted in the Rockefeller-Manchin-Shelby bill comes from states that have ADHS-designated projects that might never be built. Each year, those states receive funds for the unconstructed highway miles under the ADHS funding formula. The federal government pays for 80 percent of construction, with state?s matching the remaining 20 percent.

The bill put forth by the senators would not only fund the system for the next six years, it would also reallocate funds that states do not use to other states with ADHS highways under construction. By federal law, ADHS funds can only be spent on ADHS roads. West Virginia, South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia and New York are close to completion of their respective parts of the highway system.

The bill also calls for states with unspent ADHS funds to loan them to states within the ADHS. The loans would be repaid by future federal appropriations, along with the state's 20 percent match.

By:  Staff Writers