Capito tours Corridor H work site during visit to area
ELKINS — U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., got a close-up look at the ongoing Corridor H construction work on Monday afternoon.
Capito said completing the highway is vital for the state’s economy and noted she is impressed at the speed of the work on the seven-mile section from Kerens to Parsons.
“Corridor H is the major highway project for the state but it is major for this region, for the country, for commerce, for goods in and out, certainly quality of life and more tourists coming into West Virginia,” she said following her tour of the construction. “The speed of which they are moving is incredible. They’re working in some cases 24 hours a day to do this. We drove five of the seven miles.”
In June, $12 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation was awarded for this stretch of the highway. In the last 18 months, Corridor H has received $145 million from the federal government. Capito said she is currently working to secure more money for the project.
“As chair of the transportation and infrastructure subcommittee in the Senate, I am able to be an integral part of trying to get as much funding as possible so they can match with the state funds” she said. “We are really happy to see the progress, we’ve accelerated the timeline and we are hoping that some day we will see completion — which we will — of Corridor H. This section is going to a magnificent stretch of highway.”
The senator said she is looking forward to take the information she gathered from her visit back to Washington, D.C.
“Now that I am visualizing all the segments that they have moved along, I am going to go back to Washington, we are in the middle of working on a highway bill,” she said. “I am trying to get a provision in the highway bill that will complete the Appalachian Highway Development System. This Corridor H is probably the only major active portion in the whole country that certainly is going to require a lot more dollars.”
Capito said “filling the bucket of the Appalachian Highway Development System up a little bit more than what it is” would help the project.
“It sort of ceased to be funded because there are not many projects going on,” she said. “We want to gather what’s left in the country and give them some sort of trading program so they could use general highway dollars. We think that will help this project.”
Capito said it is important to the local economy to get the road completed.
“I think you see folks from the local community, whether it is the town of Parsons or the county commissioners of Tucker and Randolph counties, they know in order to grow their economy they need to have good access ways in and out that are not just easier, but also safer,” she said.
The senator noted the highway would also benefit local agriculture and tourism.
“There is a lot of agriculture in the area, there is a lot of tourism in the area and I think after this COVID situation, where I think some of the people in the more congested parts of our country have realized that the big open spaces we have here in West Virginia are great, so access to those I think is good for school buses, it’s good for our ag community, it’s good for transportation tourism, it’s really just a win-win for everybody.”
Capito said she was impressed with the massive amount of earth being moved for the country. She said it is important to make sure the work done properly and the project has passed all the environmental regulations.
Jimmy Wriston, Deputy Secretary of Transportation/Deputy Commissioner of Highways, said the project has been moving along well. He pointed out the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not affected the construction work. He said he hopes the Kerens to Parsons section can be near completion by the end of 2021.
Byrd E. White III, WVDOT Cabinet Secretary/Commissioner of Highways, said without support from Capito and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, the project would not be as far along as it is.
“Without Gov. Justice and Sen. Capito this doesn’t happen,” he said. “The only reason this is happening is because of Sen. Capito and Gov. Justice and their vision. Gathering money on both sides to make this work is the only reason this highway is getting built this century. It doesn’t happen without them.”
Capito added the local effort behind the project has been very important also.
“There has been a big local effort too by the general economic development, and the cities and counties to kind of join together,” she said. “They push us, they push me and the governor to make us realize how important this is to them. They make sure we know how much it matters.”
Tucker County Commission President Lowell Moore said, as a former highway worker, he looks forward to the completion of the project.
“Highways have been my life, I worked for them for 32 years and I look forward to the completion of it,” he said. “As a commissioner and a former highway person I strongly encourage the completion of it because of the 14 miles between Thomas and Parsons going across Backbone Mountain, it is a dangerous piece of road, it overloads our first responders.
“I am looking forward to seeing the completion so the economy can grow, not just Tucker County, but the whole eastern part of the United States.”