The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 22, 2013

Study: Speeding up Corridor H good for W.Va.

By The Associated Press

CHARLESTON — West Virginia’s economy would receive $1.25 billion in new revenue and the state would gain an uninterrupted link to the Inland Port in Front Royal, Va., if the completion of Corridor H is accelerated, according to an economic impact study released Monday.

Along with the new revenue that would be generated, the highway’s construction would add $800 million to the state’s economy, said the study, which was conducted by RQA Group for the Robert C. Byrd Corridor H Highway Authority.

The authority is pushing for the 143-mile four-lane highway to be completed in 2020 instead of the proposed 2036 completion date. The study projected the highway’s economic impact from 2020 to 2036, looking at projected economic growth, savings on safety-related costs such as insurance, expenses and travel time. Its estimates are in 2013 dollar values.

Economic activity stemming from a completed and fully used Corridor H over the 16-year period would create an annual average of 534 jobs and a $360 million increase in wages, the study said.

“This economic activity will start with a period of modest growth as households and businesses recognize immediate advantages from the completed corridor. However, after its start, the region will experience a rapid acceleration of economic activity as existing regional businesses expand, other businesses choose to invest in the region and new businesses start up,” the study stated.

Manufacturing is projected to have the largest estimated impact of the industry sector, with output increasing $275 million during the 16-year period. The increase would be due primarily to improved access to regional and global markets. Transportation and warehousing’s output would increase by $219 million.

“This is an important study, because it quantifies what many of us have felt was the case all along. We’re not surprised in the least that the state would benefit by a billion and a quarter dollars if we finish Corridor H in what we think is a timely manner,” authority Chairman Steve Foster said in a news release.

“We felt it was important to see hard data that shows just what we could miss out on if we don’t get this highway completed,” Foster said. “Throw in the $800 million we could save on construction costs, and I think people can see why finishing this now makes sense.”

Corridor H, which was first proposed in 1964, is the only section of the Appalachian Corridor System that has not been finished. When it is completed, it will connect Interstate 79 near Weston with the junction of Interstates 81 and 66 in Front Royal.

A completed Corridor H is important to both West Virginia and Virginia, Foster said.

“The study gives us numbers to offer government agencies and elected officials that tell all of us in a clear way what Corridor H will do for us,” Foster said.

In West Virginia, 75 percent of the highway is either under construction or open.