CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With Appalachian Corridor H now almost 75 percent open, development officials along the route of the 130-mile-long freeway are looking for ways to hasten its long-awaited completion date in an era of dwindling highway funds.
At Davis on Monday, the Corridor H Authority hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking for the construction of a 20-mile segment of the four-lane linking Davis to the Grant County community of Scherr. Work is already underway on that stretch of the highway, and should be complete by mid-2014.
But an estimated $830 million worth of additional construction remains to be done before Corridor H, first conceived in the 1960s, is complete from Interstate 79 at Weston to the Virginia border just east of Wardensville.
The national surface transportation bill passed last year made completion of Corridor H and other remaining Appalachian Corridor System highways a national priority. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin have supported an accelerated construction timetable. The result is a $40 million-per-year federal-state spending plan for the highway.
If the current spending formula remains in place, it will take until 2034 to complete Corridor H, Marvin Murphy, state highway engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways, told those attending a meeting preceding Monday's groundbreaking ceremony.
But Stephen Foster, of Buckhannon, president of the Corridor H Authority, said the highway could be completed by 2020 if a bond issue were to be floated to provide more construction cash up front and using the $40 million-a-year revenue stream to retire the bonds.
"We're going to do a study to show the difference in economic impact there will be between completing the highway in 2020 as opposed to 2035," Foster said. "I think you will see that there would be a huge benefit in building the highway sooner rather than later."
During Monday's meeting, it was announced that construction of a 10-mile segment of Corridor H linking the Tucker County towns of Davis and Parsons is scheduled to begin within the next two years -- three years ahead of a previous timetable.