Corridor H Highway: The Billion Dollar Boondoggle
Saving pristine areas from highway construction was one of the Highlands Conservancy’s organizing principles. As the major four-lane highway project known as Corridor H, designed to link I-79 at Weston with I-66 in Virginia, continues construction through the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, the Highlands Conservancy continues to mobilize and engage its members to advocate for thorough environmental review and compliance, and a route that ensures the least impact on these environmentally sensitive and unique areas of the Highlands.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy supports an alternate northern route for the Parsons-to-Davis section of the Corridor H Highway project. The West Virginia Division of Highway’s current preferred route between the towns of Parsons and Davis climbs Backbone Mountain—made of the notoriously unstable Mauch Chunk formation in the Monongahela National Forest—passes over the National Natural Landmark Big Run Bog and numerous native trout streams before making its way across the historic Blackwater Canyon towards the booming tourist destination of Blackwater Water Falls State Park and the towns of Thomas and Davis.
The northern route goes north of the towns of Thomas and Davis and preserves the unique mountain culture that people from all over come to enjoy.
The West Virginia Division of Highways opened the section from Parsons-to-Davis to public comments in late 2022. We have included the comments submitted by various environmental organizations in West Virginia, including our own, below.
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
Corridor H Alternatives
Recent article showing the overwhelming support from local businesses for the Northern Route.
Sign the citizen led Go North petition to route Corridor H north of the towns of Davis and Thomas and stay away from the Blackwater Canyon, Blackwater State Park, historic coke ovens, and rail trail. Read the long list of supporting comments here.
Learn more about the Corridor H project by watching our YouTube informational video below:
Recent maps released by the West Virginia Division of Highways in April 2023 of its Revised Original Preferred Alternative (ROPA) from Parsons-to-Davis.
Want to get in touch? BetterRouteCorridorH@gmail.com
Corridor H in The Highlands Voice:
The first article about Corridor H appeared in The Highlands Voice in June 1972. Here are our most recent stories covering the development of the decades-long project.
- Plain as the nose on your face
- It’s That Serious: A Collection of Comments on Corridor H
- What the Engineers Don’t See
- The Real Northern Route for Corridor H
- Corridor H for Dummies
- An Unsettled Settlement and One Solution
- A Better Route for Corridor H
- Who you gonna believe—me, or your lyin’ eyes?
- Whose Highway?
- Become a Citizen Scientist! Help Conduct Water Quality Monitoring Related to Corridor H Construction
- Corridor H’s Construction Company Facing Fines
- A Better Direction for Corridor H
- Cease and Desist!
- Must a Bad Project Be Badly Done?
- Putting the Brakes on Corridor H: A Brief History
A brief history of our highway opposition and Corridor H
The first proposal to be fended off was the Allegheny Parkway (patterned by its boosters after the Blue Ridge Parkway), which would have followed the highest peaks and connected Spruce Knob with Dolly Sods. The second idea was the Highland Scenic Highway, a portion of which was actually built in Pocahontas County between the Cranberry Visitor Center and US Route 219 north of Edray. The third scheme, the infamous Appalachian Corridor H, was designed to link I-79 at Weston with I-66 in Virginia.
All three had their boosters, attracted massive opposition, and ultimately were scaled back or even stopped before the first spade of dirt was turned. But by far the longest struggle has been against Appalachian Corridor H.
An east-west four-lane highway across north central West Virginia had been a dream of developers before President Kennedy’s Appalachian Regional Commission put it on their map. Yet the basic fact remained that it was impossible to select a route for a major highway that would not endanger numerous trout streams, interfere with wilderness areas, or cut through historic battlefields.
The controversy surrounding Corridor H has pulsed off and on for more than forty years. In the 1970’s, the West Virginia Department of Transportation conducted an early Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Conservancy challenged the assumption that there were any feasible alternatives. Plans lingered until 1990. When Senator Robert Byrd became chair of the Appropriations Committee, the possibility of Congressional funding rekindled the idea of the four-lane and a Supplemental EIS was issued. Another decade of debate concluded with legal action by fourteen groups led by West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Corridor H Alternatives. The lawsuit challenged the Federal Highway Administration’s Record of Decision that would allow destruction and disruption of communities and important natural and historical areas along the route.
Victory on appeal led to court-mandated mediation. A settlement agreement signed by all parties in 2000 defined specific requirements for individual sections of the road, including further studies to seek the least damaging ways around important resources such as Corricks Ford Battlefield on the Shavers Fork, Blackwater Canyon, and Greenland Gap. Forty percent of the proposed route was changed as a result of the agreement; construction was delayed by as much as twenty years. The Highlands Conservancy and other plaintiffs reserved the right to sue if the highway departments reverted to their original alignment across Blackwater Canyon.
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy continues to monitor compliance with the settlement agreement, and continues to work to keep such massive highway projects from destroying and fragmenting our highlands.