To the Editor:
Is there now, has there ever been, a Northern Route for the Tucker County section of Corridor H? At the recent CVB meeting, Kevin White said Travis Long of the Division of Highways called it just “a crayon mark on a map.”
Really? According to the 2007 Environmental Impact Statement, the DOH had a pretty good idea what a northern route would look like on the ground.
In Table S-2, DOH compared their preferred alternative with several northern routes as to length, cost, travel time, footprint in acres, volume of earthwork, business and residential displacements, reduction in truck traffic through Thomas, effects on cultural resources and many natural resources that included wetlands (four types), floodplains, streams, and endangered species habitat. So where did they get all those numbers?
If there never was a Northern Route, really, the DOH would have failed to comply with its obligations under the Settlement Agreement:
- Construction may begin following completion of an alignment shift study, which will evaluate alternatives for avoiding the Blackwater Canyon.
- The study will be conducted to evaluate one or more alignment shifts for the Davis-Thomas section of the project as a four-lane divided highway.
- Those alignments generally would involve shifting Corridor H to the north of Thomas, then connecting to WV Route 93 east of Davis.
- The Blackwater area includes the Blackwater Canyon from Thomas to Hendricks. This area includes all historic resources associated with coal mining and coke production in the late 19th and 20th Centuries.
Of course, the Northern Route did not reach the stage of final design. Neither has the DOH’s preferred alternative. The Settlement Agreement contemplated that, “If a prudent and feasible alternative route were to be found, the new route would have to be developed. Estimated time for the various studies is 18 months.”
That’s 18 months—not three or four years, as the DOH says now.
The northern alternative was supposed to be explored for “the Davis-Thomas section of the project.” Its route west of that, around the high school and down Backbone Mountain, can be thrown out. That design was a failure. It had no access to the high school, excessive cuts and fills, more stream crossings, etc.
The Northern Route is the Davis-Thomas section. It should be our focus now, to benefit both towns, to prevent a wide barrier between them, to relieve Thomas of truck traffic, and to preserve the Blackwater area (whether you call it the Canyon or not). It should be included in the next Environmental Impact Statement.
Kerens WV 26276