Tourism already is a major contributor to West Virginia’s economy, but it could become much, much more important if a better highway route existed to bring East Coast residents to our majestic mountains.
Such a route, Corridor H, has been about 75 percent completed through some of the most difficult terrain east of the Mississippi. It connects to Interstate 79 west of Buckhannon and, when finished, will extend to I-81 near Front Royal, Va.
Corridor H was proposed in 1964 as part of the federal Appalachian Corridor System. It is the only leg of the network not yet finished.
And if current levels of federal funding are maintained, Corridor H will not be completed until 2034-a full 70 years after it was envisioned.
That is a terribly absurd timetable.
As Corridor H’s existing mileage stands, it is useful for local traffic in West Virginia’s Potomac Highlands. It also reduces travel time somewhat for those going to Virginia or from it into our state.
But for the highway to make a major difference in our state’s economy, it will have to link up to I-81. Waiting another 21 years for that to happen-an entire generation-is ridiculous.
Federal officials insist economic development is one of their highest priorities for spending. If that is true, they will re-examine the funding schedule for Corridor H and accelerate the process of completing the highway.
That would be a true economic development triumph-and it is one that should be delayed no longer.