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How Much Will Corridor H Cost Taxpayers?

It costs $15 million per mile to build a highway in the mountains of West Virginia, according to a December 1998 news story in the Charleston, WV, Gazette. Like most federally funded projects, Corridor H is 80% paid for by your federal tax dollars and 20% by state tax dollars.

Even the huge TEA-21 transport authorization bill of 1998, and the appropriations bill that followed, do not provide nearly enough money to build even half of the 100-mile freeway. For Appalachian Corridors as a whole, $2.25 billion was in the five-year TEA-21, and an additional $300 million, to be divided among 13 states, was in the appropriation.

9 Reasons Why We Think the Four-Lane Truck Route Version of Corridor H is A Waste of Your Tax Dollars:

1. THE ROAD HAS NO PURPOSE AND IT WOULD GO NOWHERE. Criticized on national television (ABC News, Nov. 18 1996, and NBC News, May 24, 1995) as a "Road to Nowhere," Corridor H would begin in the small town of Elkins, WV and stop six miles short of the Virginia state line just west of the town of Wardensville. Virginia has refused to build the 14 miles which would connect it to I-81, because it has no need for the road and local people opposed it, and would damage a historic rural area.

2. STUDIES SHOW THAT VERY LITTLE TRAFFIC WOULD USE THE HIGHWAY. WV Division of Highways studies show that traffic levels along the proposed Corridor H do not show a need for new highway capacity. Projected traffic on existing east-west roads through the Potomac and Allegheny Highlands will average less than 5,000 a day for the next 20 years, according to the Corridor H Environmental Impact Statement. (Engineers generally accept 10,000 vehicles per day as the mninimum traffic justifying a four-lane.) Compare this to the 190,000 vehicles using the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Washington D.C. each day.

3. APPALACHIA NEEDS MORE EDUCATION AND JOB TRAINING, NOT MORE ROADS. The Director of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Jesse White, stated publicly in 1996 that what local residents need is not more new roads but increased support for education and small business development. Twenty-five years of road-building has left Appalachia more driveable but still poor, underemployed and undereducated. Studies show that the construction of rural highways does NOT create significant numbers of new jobs.

4. A BILLION AND A HALF IN PURE PORK! Advocates of budget reduction, including Rep. John Kasich and the Green Scissors coalition, have targeted Corridor H as a wasteful example of unneeded federal spending. A Virginia state legislator joked, "Why don't we just spend $100,000 and build a monument to Senator (Robert C.) Byrd (D-WV)., and the road will go away!"

5. CIVIL WAR BATTLEFIELDS JEOPARDIZED! Eastern West Virginia was surveyed by George Washington and settled around the same time as Colonial Virginia. The area is steeped in Civil War history. Battlefields at Corricks Ford, near Parsons WV, and Old Fields, near Moorefield, are essential to a growing tourism industry, but would be forever marred by a four-lane highway. Part of the Cedar Creek battlefield known as Harmony Hall would be in the path of the road should it ever reach the area of Strasburg, VA. Other historic sites impacted by the road include the Wardensville historic district and a Civil War site at Greenland Gap.

6. ENORMOUS ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE: At 100 stream crossings, Corridor H runoff would impair local water quality forever. The highway would slash through the Monongahela National Forest, near one of the largest wilderness areas on the East Coast. EPA's Region 3 scientists rated Corridor H "environmentally unsatisfactory" project, but their report was supressed by the Clinton Administration and Peter Kostmayer, the regional administrator, was fired. (link to Special Places, if used)

7. THE FUNDAMENTAL NEED: MAINTAIN EXISTING ROADS. West Virginia ranks 6th in the nation in the number of structurally deficient bridges, according to a 1997 Federal Highway Administration report. However, the state spent most of its flexible federal money in 1994 and 1995 on construction of new roads instead of fixing the dangerous bridges.

8. THE PUBLIC OPPOSED CORRIDOR H IN HEARINGS. Of about 3,000 who commented on the project in 1993, 50 percent were opposed; by 1995, nearly 90% of the 4000 citizens commenting were opposed. Polls show that, given a choice, many West Virginians prefer having their gas tax money spent to improve existing roads and bridges.

9. CORPORATE WELFARE. Who really benefits from Corridor H? A few people would have a faster and safer drive, but this could also be done by improving the existing roads. Those who would benefit the most from a big new road include the following: roadbuilding contractors, those who wish to haul coal, timber and limestone out of West Virginia; those who own land around the interchanges, out of state chain mall stores, and poultry processors who want to get more chickens to and from their plants.

AND WHO WOULD LOSE OUT? Other taxpayers who don't get their roads fixed; farmers and homeowners who lose land or see it devalued due to a highway in the front yard; Main Street businesses bypassed by the road; tourist businesses who cater to those preferring a quiet clean environment. And all those who care about wild places, which are increasingly rare in the Eastern U.S.

Is there a transportation alternative to this 100-mile truck route which would benefit more people and harm fewer?

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