3:00pm: Hotline with Dave Weekley

DOH looks at Corridor H funding proposal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. —¬†West Virginia leaders are seeking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s approval for a finance plan that would allow Corridor H to be constructed 16 years earlier than anticipated.

Business, community and economic development leaders joined together to present a Public-Private Partnership plan to complete the road, that extends from Lewis County to Virginia, by 2020 rather than 2036.

Division of Highways spokesman Brent Walker said Corridor H remains a priority for the state’s transportation system.

“It’s an important road for the governor, for the folks who live in that area, and it’s a beautiful road. We’re proud of the work that we’ve done so far and we’re continuing to work toward that,” he said.

The PPP became an option after SB 190 took effect July 1, 2013. The bill allows the DOH to start projects sooner by establishing a payment plan with contractors, rather than paying the entire projected cost up front.

Walker said people need to realize there is a limit on what they can afford to pay.

“We’ve described it a little bit like a mortgage where you have flat payments and you know what you’re paying, but at some point, you can’t pay more than what you have coming in,” he said.

The construction plan would include 13 percent of the unfunded road extending to Front Royal, Va., which has a large inland port facility that can link manufacturers in the state to East Coast markets and global shipping.

According to a news release, the Corridor H Authority conducted a study to determine what areas along the corridor could send trucks to the new port, have them unloaded, and return within a nine-hour round trip. These areas included the Kanawha Valley, the Northern Panhandle, and the I-79 Tech Corridor.

Robbie Morris, Randolph County Development Authority executive director and Corridor H Authority chair, also supports the plan.

Citing another study, Morris said the plan would leave a higher economic impact as the years roll by. By 2020, $1.25 billion would benefit the area with construction, pushing the total to over $2 billion. This would take eight years to establish businesses along the road after completion.

“It remains to be seen. There will be some discussion on how to fix it. It would be on anyone’s list and if it can be done, we’re all for it,” said Walker.

If Tomblin agrees to the plan, the authority is willing to pay the construction company’s investment back in 10 years with the funds already in reserve.

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