MORGANTOWN, W.Va — The committee formed to promote the widening of Route 2 and expansion of Interstate 68 into the Ohio Valley has seen slight improvements mile by mile.
“We see some progress, particularly on Route 2, because the nature of that construction would be that it could be built 2 or 3 miles at a time,” noted Charlie Clements, executive director of the Route 2 & I-68 Authority.
The state legislature created the authority in 1996-97 to establish Route 2 as a four-lane highway from Chester to Parkersburg and extend Interstate 68 from Morgantown to the Ohio Valley where it would connect to Route 2.
Clements has been encouraged at the improvement he’s seen and remains cautiously optimistic overall about interstate expansion.
“It’s got to be an almost all or nothing thing because the roads between Morgantown and the Ohio Valley are just not suitable to dump high volumes of traffic onto,” said Clements.
A survey of businesses in the 10 counties represented by the authority brought results Clements thinks will add to the argument to lawmakers secure additional funding for the infrastructure plans.
“These statistics I think will just help us reinforce our plea to them for federal help and our plea to Charleston to try to do this because it’s an important thing for the development of northern West Virginia,” Clements added.
Approximately 23 percent of the 742 surveys sent out were returned. According to Clements, half of the respondents indicated Route 2 expansion would be beneficial to business. Of those respondents, 95 percent place high or moderate importance on transporting their products and services.
Clements said economic growth can’t be sparked without infrastructure improvements.
“This has got a lot of future up here with this gas development. It can lead to a much better economic climate in our area.”
Hopeful of the development of cracker plant across the Ohio River from Moundsville, Clements is convinced gate side industries will pop up with a need for a faster route to the east coast.
“There’s going to have to be a lot of support industries. The trucking industry is going to expand. There will be more rail traffic, just everything associated with the big thing. And, we need highways to get our products in and out.”
The authority’s survey found 67.9 percent of respondents in favor of expanding Route 2 said their business relies on out-of-state and out-of-region engagement.
Approximately 62 percent of survey takers who support I-68 expansion for business purposes said their company actively works with businesses beyond West Virginia’s borders.
The Route 2 and I-68 Authority includes representatives from Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, Wetzel, Tyler, Pleasants, Wood, Monongalia and Marion counties.