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February 7, 2000
Settlement Achieved in Corridor H Lawsuit

Charleston, W. Va. – The West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT), and Corridor H Alternatives, Inc. (CHA) today jointly announced that the parties to the Corridor H lawsuit have achieved a settlement agreement in the pending litigation concerning the Corridor H project.

The FHWA, WVDOT, CHA and all other parties to the Corridor H lawsuit have signed the settlement agreement and submitted it for approval to United States District Judge Thomas Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. A hearing will be held on February 23, 2000 to review the document. The agreement could be modified during the Court's review. It will not take effect until approved by the Court.

If approved by the Court, the agreement would allow final design, right-of-way acquisition and construction to resume in parts of the project, while new alignments are studied in other areas. The agreement also calls for a delay of construction between Wardensville and the Virginia state line.

Key points in the agreement include:
Construction would be allowed to proceed immediately on the 5.5-mile section of Corridor H between Elkins and Kerens.

Final design, right-of-way acquisition and construction would be allowed to proceed, without further environmental studies, for project sections between Davis and Wardensville, following the completion of the remaining historic resource reviews for those sections.

FHWA and WVDOT would prepare Supplemental Environmental Impact Statements, with full public participation, to study alignment shifts to avoid the Corricks Ford Battlefield/Shavers Fork Valley area in the vicinity of Parsons, and to avoid the Blackwater Canyon between Thomas and Hendricks.

FHWA and WVDOT would defer construction of the 5.5-mile section between Wardensville and the Virginia line for as long as 20 years. Subject to certain conditions, final design and right-of-way acquisition also would be deferred in this section during that period. The delay could be shortened if Virginia approves the 14-mile section of Corridor H between the state line and I-81, if traffic increases significantly on WV 55 between Wardensville and the state line, or if required to ensure eligibility for Appalachian highway corridor funding.

The plaintiffs agreed not to bring any future lawsuits seeking further study of "improved roadway alternatives" for Corridor H. The plaintiffs would retain the right to continue advocating for improved roadway alternatives in media campaigns and other public forums.

The Plaintiffs retain certain rights to sue over future actions by the Defendants, including the right to bring certain claims under the Endangered Species Act. The Plaintiffs also have the right to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement.

Additional points include:
a final determination by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places of whether the Greenland Gap area is eligible for protection as a historic site;

the release of funds for recreational trails in Randolph, Tucker and Grant Counties;

a study of roadway improvements on the eastern section of US 50;

$1 million for streetscape and other capital improvements in Wardensville;

enforcement of truck weight limits on US 219;

evaluation of potential design changes to the Corridor H interchange at Kerens to address safety concerns raised by CHA;

removal of all Corridor H-related signs from highway rights of way;

information-sharing and alternative-dispute resolution procedures.

The two groups have been in mediation since the spring of last year. The mediation took place as part of the U.S. District Court Mediation Program with the involvement of professional mediators.

Corridor H was first proposed in the mid-1960s as a highway extending from I-79 at Weston, West Virginia, to I-81 at Strasburg, Virginia. Over time, WVDOT completed approximately 40 miles of Corridor H, from I-79 to Elkins. In 1990, WVDOT and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) began studying the completion of Corridor H from Elkins to I-81. During the course of that study, Virginia decided not to proceed with further development of Corridor H between the Virginia line and I-81. The present lawsuit involves the proposed construction by WVDOT of the remainder of Corridor H in West Virginia – the 100-mile section between Elkins and the Virginia line, of which approximately three and a half miles are currently under construction.

Details of the agreement are outlined in a summary document attached to this press release.

For further information, please contact:

WVDOT:Joe Deneault
(304) 558-0191

CHA:Hugh Rogers
(304) 636-2622

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