DOH will evaluate route to avoid Blackwater Canyon on Corridor H

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Highways has agreed to re-evaluate a possible alternate route for the construction of Corridor H around Thomas and Davis in Tucker County.

“We’ve had a group of citizens that has requested us to consider this alternative with our Revised Original Preferred Alternative to evaluate the overall impacts to the region. So we’re doing that side-by-side comparison this fall,” said Jason Foster, Chief Engineer of Development at the West Virginia Division of Highways.

The Go-North Corridor H Alliance sought the change during the public comment period on the routes to keep the highway from splitting the towns of Thomas and Davis. Consideration will now be given to what the Division of Highways has deemed the “Blackwater Avoidance Alternative 3.”

“Members of the Go North Corridor H Alliance applaud the Federal Highway Administration and the West Virginia Division of Highways for studying a northern route and addressing questions raised by stakeholders during the public comment periods,” said Olivia Miller, board member of the Stewards of the Potomac Highlands in a release regarding the decision.

The route preferred by the state, or the Revised Original Preferred Alternative, included a truck route to keep truck traffic off Front Street in Thomas as they accessed the highway from the north. According to Foster, a change to the northern route would do away with the truck route and trucks from the south accessing the Corridor would have to travel through Thomas.

“If the northern route is laid out as they’ve requested, the truck route becomes unavailable and then trucks on Route 32 coming through Davis would have to travel through Thomas to access the Corridor or would have to go further east to access the Corridor,” he explained.

Previously the DOH said they evaluated a northern route, but after public hearings the Go North group raised some alternatives which Foster said they are willing to evaluate to see if it makes for a better alternative than the preferred original route.

“Their primary ask is for us to divert Corridor H north of Thomas and go around that entire town to the north. It’s a substantial increase in length and change of grade to get that far north. We had considered options that went north of Thomas, they’ve asked for some particular changes to that route to see if that improves the outcome of the route’s evaluation,” Foster said.

“A project of this magnitude will forever alter the landscape of Tucker County and our precious public lands, which provide the invaluable benefits of nature to us all,” Miller added in a press release. “Considering the extent of problems and mistakes made during construction of the Kerens to Parsons section of the Corridor, more research is needed to identify the route that will cause the least environmental harm during construction and afterward. I am optimistic that state highway officials will design a route aptly suited for this special area of West Virginia.”

Foster said the Notice of Intent is expected to go out in the Federal Register in late September and the evaluation is expected to be complete by this fall.

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