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The Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 was passed as part of an effort to stimulate economic growth in Appalachian rural areas. The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) was created by the act, which also authorized the ARC to create the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS). The Appalachian region, as defined by the act, stretches from Mississippi to New York. Congress defined it to "provide a highway system which, in conjunction with the Interstate System and other Federal-aid highways in the Appalachian region, will open up an area or areas where commerce and communication have been inhibited by lack of adequate access". 23 transportation corridors were to be developed as part of the ADHS, and Corridor H was designated in 1965.
CONTINUED OPPOSITION: In 1993, the West Virginia highway division published a revised EIS, with a new route which went north from Elkins and then south to Moorefield. But many citizens felt that improving existing routes would be a better use of money. Nearly 90% of more than 4,000 written comments in 1995 opposed Corridor H. Counting the damage to two national forests, 41 streams, historic sites including two Civil War battlefields, many farms, and Main Street businesses, many believed the costs far outweighed the benefits. EPA Regional Administrator Peter Kostmayer, based on studies by staff scientists rated the four-lane version of Corridor H "environmentally unacceptable." He was then fired and the rating was changed to approve the project.
The highway agencies spent over $30 million on glossy four-color reports describing many different Corridor H routes and their various levels of damage to the environment. However, federal law did not require the Highway Division to pick the least damaging option. So for all the printed words, the environmental damage would still be enormous--including the admitted 1 million acres of forests and 260,000 acres of farmland that would be lost to development.
Paul Turman, West Virginia's assistant transportation secretary, said the $21 million in stimulus money will connect two unfinished stretches of the superhighway at the midpoint of the route. The State Division of Highways said the money will create 60 jobs lasting between 18 and 24 months, which works out to $175,000 in taxpayer dollars a year for each job created.
West Virginia also says Corridor H would be an ideal evacuation route for Washington, about 100 miles away, in case of an emergency.
"If something happens in the D.C. area, they can get out," Turman said
But Virginia's refusal to connect to Corridor H means anyone fleeing would have to negotiate a 20-mile stretch of narrow, winding county road on the way west.
Critics say the cost is too high for a lightly traveled road, and the state keeps shifting its reasons for continuing to fund it
"They went through a lot of contortions to try to explain what the need was," said Hugh Rogers, a conservationist who lives at the end of the first stretch of Corridor H. "Traffic is not the need."
(1) CLOSED MILITARY INSTALLATION- The term ‘closed military installation’ means a military installation, or portion thereof, approved for closure or realignment under the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990 (part A of title XXIX of Public Law 101-510; 10 U.S.C. 2687 note) that meet all, or 2 out of the 3 following requirements:
(A) Is located in close proximity to a transportation corridor.
(B) Is located in a State with a high level or threat of disaster related activities.
(C) Is located near a major metropolitan center.