Return to News

Corridor H opponents open new line of attack

by Stephen Singer


CHARLESTON -- Opponents of Corridor H, the final stretch of the Appalachian regional highway system in the Eastern Panhandle, filed a second lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The environmental group Corridor H Alternatives hopes to force federal highway officials to reroute the highway to avoid a Civil War battlefield in Tucker County.

"This is a fairly pristine battlefield and we want to preserve it," said Ruth Rogers, a group member from Kerens, Randolph County.

"Corridor H Alternatives tries to encourage people to instead of thinking, 'What do we need,' to 'What do we want to preserve?'" she said.

An attorney for Corridor H Alternatives also said the group's appeal of an October 1997 decision by U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan is to be heard Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington.

Hogan ruled that state and federal officials had met all requirements for choosing where to build the 113-mile highway that will extend from Elkins to the Virginia state line.

Corridor H Alternatives claims that the highway harms the environment and contributes little to economic development in West Virginia.

The environmental group wants the Federal Highway Administration to remove a 16.6-mile stretch of the highway between Elkins and Parsons and instead widen U.S. 219, which is north of the proposed highway, to a four-lane road.

The change would protect Corrick's Ford, the site of the last action in the Civil War's West Virginia campaign in July 1861 that gave the Union control of mountain areas, rivers and communication lines in the region.

A congressional report prepared in 1993 did not list Corrick's Ford among the most significant of the 384 Civil War battlefields, according to the Civil War Trust of Arlington, Va.

Sam Beverage, state Highways Commissioner, said he would not comment on the lawsuit until he sees it.

But he said switching to U.S. 219 would not meet the "original purpose" of the highway, which is the last remaining portion in the 30-year-old Appalachian regional system.

"You would do a lot more damage to historic homes if you widen 219," Beverage said. "We're actually moving away from that highway."

Rod Blackstone, spokesman for Gov. Cecil Underwood, criticized Corridor H Alternatives as a "small band of opponents."

"The routing is a compromise worked out over several years," he said. "The Division of Highways and the state have done a yeoman's task in working out a route."