The completion of Corridor H is the key to a greater economic presence in the world for the Mountain State, said officials who attended a Corridor H Exporter Summit at West Virginia Wesleyan College on Monday morning.
Steve Foster, chairman of the Corridor H Authority, said his group's mission is to "do anything we can to facilitate the completion of Corridor H."
According to the group's website, Congress authorized the Appalachian Corridor System in 1964 to connect Appalachia to the rest of the world with limited-access, four-lane highways. Many of those corridors have now become interstate highways. From Maine to Alabama, these types of roads have opened commerce to the people, businesses and mountains of Appalachia.
The Inter-Mountain photo by John Clise
Ken Wester of the Appalachian Regional Commission speaks Monday at the Corridor H Exporter Summit at West Virginia Wesleyan College.
In West Virginia, every corridor but one is complete - Corridor H. Stretching 130 miles from Interstate 79 at Weston, it runs to the Virginia border where it is designed to travel an additional 13 miles to the Interstate 66/Interstate 81 junction near Front Royal, Va.
By 2013, 75 percent of the corridor will be completed.
Russell Held, executive deputy director of Port of Virginia Authority, appeared at Monday's summit to discuss the possibilities of increased economic prosperity for West Virginia and Virginia with the completion of Corridor H. It is projected to be completed in 2034, though supporters are pushing for a 2020 completion date.
"A William and Mary study estimates that the Virginian Port Authority touches 343,000 jobs in Virginia and up to 1 million in the United States," Held said.
West Virginia business could benefit by connecting to the port through Corridor H, making it a great opportunity to increase the Mountain State's economic presence both domestically and internationally because of the port's proximity to international shipping lanes and two-thirds of the population in the United States.
Ken Wester with the Appalachian Regional Commission spoke on the recent passage of the highway reauthorization bill that will bring more than $1 billion into the state over the next three years for road funding. Much of the funding will go toward Corridor H. However, the state does face a shortfall in funds for road maintenance, as do all states.
Wester said many programs have been consolidated, giving the federal government the opportunity to grant the funds to states and allow the state to decide how the funds are spent.
According to a news release from U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the recently passed highway transportation bill has provisions that will create jobs for highway workers in West Virginia - bringing Corridor H one step closer to reality.
Rockefeller outlined the funding levels for programs in West Virginia.
"It's no secret that federal budgets are getting tighter and tighter, but I'm thrilled my colleagues recognized the need for an improved transportation infrastructure for West Virginia," Rockefeller said.
"Not only did we affirm that the Appalachian Highway Development System - and, by extension, Corridor H is a national priority, we included major provisions to improve safety while giving West Virginia certainty to move forward with needed road projects.
"I can't stress how important this highway bill is for West Virginia," Rockefeller said.
West Virginia is authorized to receive highway funding of $423.3 million for fiscal year 2012; $423.3 million for fiscal year 2013; and $426.9 million for fiscal year 2014.
During Monday's summit, Joe DeNeault, chair of West Virginians for Better Transportation, discussed the group's mission to bring attention to the importance of better roadways in West Virginia and their importance to the future of the state's economic development.
The group's mission is to bring attention to the issue and bring elected officials and other groups together to create an atmosphere of communication to better seek a way to make these projects become a reality.
The group currently has more than 300 partners across the state seeking the same goal through a variety of avenues. More information on Corridor H is available at www.corridorh2020.com.