Corridor H came about as part of the 1965 Appalachian Regional Development Act. The route was initially proposed as a passage from Weston, W.Va. to Strasburg, Virginia.
The Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) was designed as a 13-state regional system that called for 23 corridors, each offering a means for traffic to connect to major highway terminals. The idea was to connect remote areas of Appalachia to the national Interstate Highway System. Corridor H would be one of six (D, E, G, H, L, and Q) ADHS routes planned to be built in (or through) West Virginia. The other routes (listed below) that pass through West Virginia are complete:
• Corridor D: U.S. 50, Cincinnati, Ohio (via Parkersburg) to I-79 at Bridgeport, W.Va.
• Corridor E: Interstate 68, Morgantown (from I-79) to I-70 at Hancock, Md.
• Corridor G: U.S. 119, Charleston, W.Va. to Pikeville, Ky.
• Corridor L: U.S. 19, from Beckley W.Va. to Sutton, W.Va.
• Corridor Q: Christiansburg, Va. to Pikeville, Ky., incorporating U.S. highways 52, 19 and 460 in West Virginia
Construction of Corridor H would start slowly, and it would remain the most neglected link in the development chain. By 1974, widening projects were beginning on U.S. 33 immediately east of I-79 near Weston.
The only sign of significant construction at that time was a six-mile stretch of highway being built on a new alignment east of Elkins. Construction also began in the mid 1970’s on the section from Canfield to Shavers Fork.
The original proposed routing of Corridor H followed U.S. 33 from I-79 east to Elkins then onward via U.S. 33 to Seneca Rocks. From that point east, there were two proposals. One was a new terrain route over the Shenandoah Mountains to New Market, Virginia. The other called for Corridor H to go north from Seneca Rocks to Moorefield and then east roughly following Route 55 to Strasburg.
Environmental groups, however, voiced concerns and protested the route east of Shavers Fork. In 1981, West Virginia initiated studies and hearings on an Environmental Impact Statement for the highway east of Shavers Fork, an effort that stalled as funding issues would cause the state would shelve the project until 1990. In the meantime, the state in 1982 began 12 years of constructing nearly 40 miles of Corridor H from I-79 east to just west of the city of Elkins.
Activity would pick up in the 1990’s after U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was named chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Byrd accelerated highway funding to West Virginia. At the state level, the West Virginia Department of Transportation began a study that included a Corridor Selection Draft Environmental Impact Statement (CSDEIS). After the WVDOT released an Alignment Selection Draft Environmental Impact Statement (ASDEIS) as part of the study, a new route was proposed, which had the highway running northeast from Elkins to Parsons and east from Parsons to Davis. A northern route was added that directed the highway from Bismark and Scherr to Moorefield, then east to Virginia in the shadows of current WV 55.
Former West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood, meanwhile, stated that his administration's goal was to "...move aggressively toward construction of every segment of Corridor H as we have been financially and legally permitted to do so."
The state of West Virginia released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in April 1996 and the Federal Highway Administration announced a Record of Decision (ROD) approving the 100-mile route four months later.
The next milestone came when a U.S. District Court of Appeals decided on February 9, 1999, that the two agencies through the EIS process did consider all alternatives, including improving existing routes.
A compromise came in December 1999 as a result of the U.S. District Court Mediation program. The compromise broke the original ROD on the 100-mile route into nine segments. RODs would be issued for each segment.
An overview of activity since 2000 shows that the nine remaining segments would be re-evaluated on an individual basis. Construction began on some segments in 2000. One section that was opened (in August 2002) was the North Elkins Bypass. Another opening took place in 2003 as 14 miles of highway from Baker to Moorefield were open to traffic. Construction was also completed on a segment east of Baker and WV 259 to Wardensville. This section opened on October 20, 2006. A three-mile section of the 15-mile Moorefield to Forman segment opened to traffic in November 2005. This extended the highway west to end at US 220 just north of Moorefield. The remaining 12 miles of this section opened to traffic on October 27, 2010. The remainder of the 14.5-mile Forman-to-Bismarck (west-to-east) section opened to traffic in late 2013.
In 2012, Congress passed a surface transportation bill that forces each state within the Appalachian Development Highway System to make plans known within one year for the remaining roads to be built within the system. Corridor H was also made a national priority in the same piece of legislation and the funding formula for construction was changed from 80 percent federal and 20 percent state to 100 percent federal funds. Currently, Virginia’s section of Corridor H is scheduled to be complete by 2025 (according to the VDOT report to Congress) and West Virginia’s section is scheduled to be complete between 2036-2042.
In 2008, West Virginia legislated the public-private partnership (P3) concept and expanded it in 2013. The P3 concept avoids cost increases due to inflation and speeds up construction time. A 7.5-mile stretch that would connect Kerens to the 219 Connector has been awarded for engineering and construction. This is part of the Kerens to Parsons section, which is being planed in 3 stages and is expected to be finished in 2019. An additional 10-mile stretch leading into Davis, Tucker County is currently under construction.
Since 2013, a 16.2-mile section stretching from Davis to Bismarck was opened in November 2014. This took the road from the WV 42 connector at Bismarck to the WV93 interchange east of Mount Storm Lake. On May 28, 2015, a 4.4-mile section of Corridor H opened and extends from the Tucker County line to Bismarck in Grant County. In November 2015, a 3-mile long section opened near Mount Storm.
Current the highway in West Virginia is 82% complete, under construction, or contracted currently - and is scheduled to increase to 87% by 2018.