BY JAY ROCKEFELLER
CHARLESTON -- Here in West Virginia, we have some of the hilliest terrain in the country, making a 30-mile driving trip take 60 minutes.
This landscape is part of our extensive history, and it's shaped our state in ways we see every day –- from our communities to our culture.
But we also know that for our businesses and communities to thrive in the 21st century, we need reliable, efficient roads and bridges to connect all areas of our state.
We need to enable businesses to move products across West Virginia and to sell our goods to other states on modern roads.
These roads and highways provide the foundation for that and without them nothing happens.
That's why almost 50 years ago, the 3,090-mile Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) was created by Congress to connect rural areas in thirteen Appalachian states to major highways and to improve economic development in the region.
We have seen the rewards that West Virginia highways created as part of ADHS have brought to our state, most importantly giving residents and businesses access to areas that were once more difficult to get to. In part because of these new highways, between 2003 and 2008 our state's businesses successfully doubled their exports.
These roads have opened up our state to encourage economic growth and create jobs. They have eased the strain on our transportation infrastructure, including many overburdened roads throughout West Virginia and surrounding states. And they have made traveling in West Virginia much safer.
Corridor G in southern West Virginia has been a key link connecting parts of southern West Virginia and Kentucky to Charleston and anywhere in between. Fountain Place shopping center in Logan is now a key resource along Corridor G for southern West Virginians providing access to a major grocery store and retail outlets and making shopping easier. Before the highway was built, a trip to such shops could have taken almost an hour to drive each way.
And Corridor D in northern West Virginia is now a vital tie between Clarksburg, Parkersburg, and other cities in Ohio. For years the truck traffic through Parkersburg -– as the gateway town between Ohio and West Virginia in that region –- caused excessive traffic and congestion downtown. Since Corridor D was built, that has disappeared, and it also created a way for trucks to transfer products more efficiently, as the trips now take less time.
But, after almost half a century, there are still portions of this system that are incomplete. For West Virginia, the only remaining piece is the final 59 miles of Corridor H which would connect the many towns in the eastern part of the state, and provide easy access to Virginia and Washington, D.C. As we all know, this project will take time, but I'm determined to make sure we complete it.
And that's why I am working with my friend and colleague, Senator Joe Manchin, to continue pushing for new sources of funding for ADHS so that we can finish West Virginia's portion of the system. These are priorities of mine and I will keep fighting on all fronts to secure needed funding and protect the program as long as I work for the people of West Virginia.
Our state deserves this road system complete and together we can make it happen.
Rockefeller, a Democrat, is West Virginia's senior senator in the U.S. Senate.