Sustained Outrage

Road to nowhere?

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While Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., is touting the $9.5 million for the Corridor H highway that he tucked into the recently passed omnibus budget bill, the folks over at The Rural Blog reminded us that Corridor H is well, a bit controversial…

Nearly 44 years ago, Congress created the Appalachian Regional Commission and laid out a network of highways to open it up to commerce, tourism and development. Most of the roads are built. One, across the Eastern Continental Divide, will probably never be completed, because Virginia doesn’t want it built. But that hasn’t stopped Congress from funding sections of it in West Virginia, most recently in the economic stimulus package and the omnibus spending bill that became law this week.

Corridor H has been called the “road to nowhere” because Virginia doesn’t want it, leaving the highway without the key link to the Washington, D.C., area it was aimed to provide. Other critics have called it among the worst road projects in the country.

And back in the 1990s, Corridor H generated a ton of environmental controversy, as critics argued that it was harm high-quality streams, destroy pristine forests and cause untold other environmental damage, as I wrote in April 1995. At the same time, federal environmental officials complained that highway planners had little data to support their estimates that Corridor H would create jobs and promote local economic growth.

At the time, staffers in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strongly opposed the highway, and then-EPA Region III Administrator Peter Kostmayer refused to sign off on it. After complaints from Byrd, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and then-Gov. Gaston Caperton, EPA Administrator Carol Browner (now with the Obama administration) overruled Kostmayer, who was later fired.

Read more in the Elkins Inter-Mountain.