The press currently has provided notice to the relief, in some quarters, that Corridor H is to be completed. Whatever the elation, it behooves us to remember the protracted and very difficult labor involved in bringing it to fruition.
In 1965, when I was a young man, the federal government sought to facilitate economic development in the Appalachian states. Corridor H was proposed to enable this goal in northeastern West Virginia. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, with his legislative prowess and later as chairman of the Appropriations Committee, greatly propelled this project.
Now I am an old man, Sen. Byrd is long dead, and I have recently been advised that plans for completing Corridor H have been finalized.
It will be completed when I will have been long dead. I am distressed largely by a legal system that cannot manage adversarial contentions in a more efficient way. It will have taken close to 60 years or three generations to finally complete a magnificent motorway in our wonderful state.
On a personal basis, there are specific benefits that I could have derived over the years from such a highway. It would have cut one hour from the travel time to visit my son in Washington, D.C. Secondly, my work as a visiting tuberculosis clinician visiting Hardy, Pendleton and Grant counties would have been greatly facilitated. For these monthly visits I had to negotiate treacherous mountainous roads on U.S. 33. Often it was a snow-covered highway following long lines of truck traffic through hairpin curves. Finally, my children, who live in the East and want to meet on the eastern ski slopes, state parks, and mountain streams would not have had to painfully and treacherously trek the roads through the eastern Appalachians.
So much for my personal view. What is most distressful to me is that it required three generations to reach a decision as to if, how, and when this proposed highway was to be constructed. It is reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House,” where protracted legal contentions over decades consumed considerable estates.
When Corridor H was initially considered, the United States was awash with funds. Funds to prosecute the Vietnam War, the war on poverty, and to provide 90 percent of the financing for West Virginia interstate and corridor construction was available. Now the country is so in debt it has to borrow money from China to provide food stamps.
While there were environmental considerations, the desultory process resulted in enormous cost and dislocation. The 60 years of traversing the eastern mountains would have been easier and safer for hundreds of thousands of motorists.
An easy passage from Washington, D.C., northern Virginia and Maryland to our eastern mountains’ parks, streams, and ski slopes would have added immeasurably to eastern West Virginia’s economic development.
I do not understand the objection upon objection to a ribbon of concrete coursing through our national forest. I am sure that when the tortuous U.S. 33 was constructed through the Monongahela National Forest 100 years ago, the only considerations were financing and engineering.
While the natural beauty and majesty of our state warrants preservation, consideration must be given to human development. Highways are for citizens to be efficiently transported, goods delivered and economic development to occur. It seems that overzealous environmental concerns can crush human development.
We are the only state that is fully within the Appalachian chain. Our mountainous state, if flattened out, would have a larger surface area than that of Texas. A narrow ribbon of concrete reasonably considered could enhance life and environment.
I have asked my family to engrave on my tombstone, “He didn’t get to travel through the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests on Corridor H.”
Dominic Gaziano is a physician in Charleston.