CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The economic cost of not finishing Corridor H by 2020 would be at least $1.25 billion for West Virginia, according to a new study from RQA Group which the Corridor H Authority released Monday.
“That does not include the $800 million which would go into construction and paying people to build the road, etc., so you’re looking at a $2 billion impact here,” said Steve Foster, President of the Corridor H Highway Authority.
The project is 100 percent federally funded and is scheduled to continue to draw down about $40 million each year.
At that rate, though, it will be 2036, at the earliest, before the 143-mile, four-lane highway, connecting Interstate 79 at Weston directly to Interstate 81 at Front Royal, Va., is finished.
Foster said the study showed West Virginia cannot afford to wait that long.
“We need to accelerate those payments so we can get the road built or we find another creative way to fund the road getting built, knowing that the federal dollars are continuing to flow, but over a much longer period of time than we would like to see them take,” said Foster.
By next year, Foster said 87 percent of Corridor H will be finished in West Virginia.
As of now, 75 percent of the highway is finished or under construction. In the west, the route runs from Weston in Lewis County to Kerens in Randolph County via Elkins. Final design work is underway for the section between Kerens and Parsons.
In the east, officials in Virginia, Foster said, could decide on a route for that state’s 13 miles of the highway, from Wardensville to Strasburg, this month.
In West Virginia, the highway is open from Wardensville in Hardy County to Scherr in Grant County. Between Scherr and Davis in Tucker County, it’s under construction.
The section of the highway that has not been addressed, either with design or construction, is between Davis and an area near Parsons which is some of the most mountainous terrain in West Virginia.
Foster said it’s important to open up that area. “We really believe that this will allow business to invest in West Virginia by finally having the infrastructure to support it,” he said.
Corridor H is part of the 1965 Appalachian Regional Development Act and was proposed, at that time, as a passage from Weston, W.Va. to Strasburg, Va.