By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
Under the advisory of attorneys Peter Markham and Tom Heywood from the firm of Bowles Rice, the Randolph County Development Authority have adopted a position statement on the Revised Original Preferred Alignment (ROPA). The position statement will highlight key speaking notes for the authority members and give a guideline on where the authority stands in the matter of ROPA. The position statement will make it clear where the authority stands and give the authority one voice for all members.
Authority member Mallie Combs said, “I think it important to know that is the position of highways (WVDOH) and I think that is important because they have done a lot of the due diligence.” Combs made a motion to approve the position statement as presented. Motioned passed with unanimous vote.
Morris said, “The talking points will be primarily developed by Peter, Tom and myself in coordination with information released from the division of highways.”
The authority heard from Morris concerning the delegation of authority to officers consistent with the position statement. Morris said, “As you can imagine there is a lot of work going on, hot and heavy, with the Parsons to Davis section. And there is going to be board meetings, public meetings, information meetings and opportunities I am going to be invited to as well as others from the authority.”
The delegation of authority allows officers of the authority to speak on behalf of the development authority as a whole. Morris said, “I would like permission from the authority just so we are on the same page to speak on behalf of the authority regarding anything Corridor H related. It is mostly going to center around the ROPA and those comments being consistent with our position statement, not only myself but the officers of the organization as well.”
Key factors play a role in the decision of the authority and the decision is based solely on facts presented by the West Virginia Department of Highways. Morris said, “With the current things going on with ROPA there are a couple of things. One, the ROPA was established and if you look at the original settlement group that was the original line that was proposed. There was support for that alignment back between 2003 and 2007. Some where in that time frame there was support for that route and obviously it was shelved just because of funding.
Right now, there are multiyear studies on historical sites and environmental issues and looking at the engineering of it. The entire thing of it has been incredible with multiyear studying and a lot of that is ongoing. So that is a huge part from a time stand point.
The other thing is funding. You know we have the infrastructure act. We have a lot of federal money which we always knew it was going to take in order to get Corridor H complete. That money with a lot of push from the Corridor H authority started flowing again in 2018 with the first grant DOH had applied for and finally had additional money that was specifically allocated towards Corridor H come into play. We have seen the massive contracts that have been awarded over the last few years.
If the ROPA is not selected, and the northern route or any other route would have to be studied the slate is completely clear. All of that work has to start over again. And who knows what the funding scenario is going to be at that time. So why is that a problem?
Some would say yeah let us clear the slate and look for a whole new route. Guess what is not stopping, Kerens to Parsons and also what will not be stopping is Wardensville to the state line. Even if you take Wardensville to the state line out and just the construction that is going on right now comes on line; we have already increased traffic along Corridor H of the completed sections; and the section of Kerens to Parsons is completed, which will be done in the next two to three years, and GPS systems update the amount of traffic is going to increase even more. That is going to create quite a situation from Parsons to Davis. If the ROPA can be awarded in 2024, the funding started and you start that five-year build process, Kerens to Parsons comes on in two to three, you are looking at dealing with that heavier traffic situation in two or three years.
But if you have to stop and completely start over then you are looking at maybe selecting another route you could be working just on the design another seven years. And funding who knows where that is going to be but likely I have heard a minimum of 10-year delay if not 15 years. That would mean for seven to ten years or more the area between Mackeyville and where the road ends in Davis is going to have an unbelievable amount of traffic.
That is the biggest determent, but time is one thing but looking at it from a safety standpoint. Tucker County High School is on that route. City of Thomas, Town of Davis where not designed with that amount of Highway-S type traffic in mind. The ROPA at this point is the only way that traffic is going to impact those areas in the shortest amount of time possible.
Some people have called and said they do not want the highway at all because they do not want traffic to increase going through their town. That ship has sailed. So, we have to get for the safety and security of that section of the highway from Parsons to Davis built as soon as possible. ROPA is the way to get that done.”
The development authority members will be attending informational meetings in the upcoming months. One will be held on August 18 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Wardensville at the War Memorial Building to discuss the Corridor H section going from Wardensville to the West Virginia state line. The next one will be held in the Blackwater Falls Conference Room on September 12 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. to discuss the section of Corridor H from Parsons to Davis.
The next Robert C. Byrd Corridor H Highway Authority meeting will be held on October 14, 2022, at 11 a.m. at the Randolph County Development Authority office located at 10 11th Street, Elkins, West Virginia 26241