By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
The West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT), Division of Highways and Federal Highway Administration hosted a public information workshop in Blackwater Falls State Park Conference Center. The workshop provided information to the guests concerning the Appalachian Corridor H Parsons to Davis project. Guests were given the opportunity to view updates and ask questions on the Parsons to Davis project. Preliminary mapping, project scheduling and other materials were available to review in person as well as online at http://go.wv.gov/dotcomment. The meeting complied with the National Environmental Policy Act and Section 106 of the National Preservation Act requirements.
According the WVDOT, “The Parsons to Davis project is an approximately 10-mile, new location, four-lane, divided highway, with partial control of access. The project begins east of Parsons, at Tucker County Route 219/4 (Mackeyville Road) 0.2 mile south of United States Route (US) 219, which is also the eastern terminus of the Kerens to Parsons project. The project ends north of Davis along West Virginia State Route (WV) 93, 1.3 miles east of WV 32, which is also the western terminus of the Davis to Bismarck project. The highway will help fulfill the goals of improving east-west travel and promoting economic development in the region.
A Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was approved in 2007, but the project was paused because of funding constraints. A Public Informational Workshop was held in 2019 to provide updates on the project. Since 2019, engineering studies, including consideration of options for the Coketon bridge type, the Corridor H/WV 32 intersection, and the Truck Route have taken place. In addition, environmental studies, including surveys for federally listed species, and updated historic resources survey, and an Environmental Justice analysis, are ongoing or have been completed.”
The WVDOT encourages residents of Tucker County to make comments by writing them on the printed form provided at the workshop or digitally through the website provided above. The last day to submit comments is October 12.
During the workshop answers to frequently asked questions were posted. WVDOT provided answers to questions many residents may have such as will the location of Corridor H between towns of Thomas and Davis cut off the connections between the two towns or how will the construction of US 48 impact the traveling public between Thomas and Davis.
To answer the question of will the connection be cut between Thomas and Davis, WVDOT said, “No. Several interchange options are being evaluated east of WV 32 near the current terminus of the 4-lane roadway with a service road following existing WV 93 accessing Davis and Thomas. The corridor will pass under WV 32 to “tuck” the new 4-lane away from view and reduce noise. As part of the project, a shared use trail will be constructed to connect the Twin towns, and access will be provided form WV 32 to the rail grade that travels east towards Beaver Creek and west toward Pendleton Creek.”
WVDOT said, “We are currently designing the Thomas/Davis interchange to be located east of WV 32 based on public opinion. Regardless of the location of the interchange, US 48 will cross under WV32. All forms of traffic will be considered throughout the design process and impacts to the traveling public will be reduced to the extent possible.” in response to the question of how the construction will impact the traveling public between Thomas and Davis.
With the Revised Original Preferred Alternative (ROPA) alignment the construction of the project is set to begin in the fall of 2024. New alignments will add three to four years to NEPA approvals missing the Infrastructure bill that expires in September of 2026.
According to WVDOT the Corridor H project will not have cross over Blackwater Canyon. The alignment crosses over the North Fork Blackwater River two miles north of its confluence with the Blackwater River. All the alternative for the project, including the northern alignments, cross the North Fork Blackwater River.
In response to the question of whether or not the location of Corridor H will negatively impact parks and trails in the areas WVDOT said, “No, the opposite. The Preferred Alternative is not in the viewshed of Blackwater Falls State Park. The crossing of the North Fork Blackwater River is over one mile north of the Town of Douglas and will not be visible from Lindy Point or Pase Point Overlooks. In addition, the current design includes natural landscaping techniques that employ earthen berms to reduce the possibility for noise pollution in the area around Blackwater Falls State Park. The design is also taking into account the future plans of Friends of Blackwater to connect the Allegheny Highlands Trail to the Pase Point Trail via a suspension bridge at Douglas Falls, as well as the future plans of the Highlands Trail Foundation to connect the Allegheny Highlands Trail in Thomas to WV 32 via the Dobbin Road Grade.”
To inform about the environmental impact of the Corridor H project on natural resources WVDOT said, “The Biological and Aquatic Resource Study Area is a broad buffer placed around the proposed project to guide stream, wetland, and habitat resource inventories and species surveys. However, the coordination for the WVNFS took a larger, more regional approach to analyze roosting and foraging for the species. Likewise, for bat species and the Cheat Mountain salamander, the surveys and analyses extend beyond the Study Area and are still being coordinated with resource agencies.”
The timeframe presented by the WVDOT is: 2022 – Notice of Intent for Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS); 2023 – Continued engineering, environmental studies, public outreach and agency coordination with a draft SEIS circulated; 2024 – Final SEIS circulated (Early 2024), Amended Record of Decision (AROD) completed and begin right-of way activities (mid-2024), and construction will begin late 2024; 2030 – The projects will open to all traffic. All dates represent estimates and are subject to change.
More of the answers to the common questions concerning the Corridor H project can be found at the WVDOT website http://go.wv.gov/dotcomment. Travis Long, Director of the Division of Highways Technical Support Division can be reached at (304) 414.6457, firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to 1334 Smith Street, Charleston, West Virginia, 25301.