|By Bob Weaver|
If you're planning a trip on one of two long-proposed regional highways, you should become a believer in reincarnation.
Hundreds of volunteers and local leaders have worked at bringing a modern highway to the West Central-Little Kanawha region, starting with the Blue-Gray Highway project in 1964 and the Little Kanawha Parkway in the 1970s.
Locally, Dan McDonald, Danny Law and Bob Bonar have been on the Parkway committee for years, going to countless meetings, trying to move the project ahead.
Engineering studies have been done, maps drawn, committees organized, money raised, meetings held, lobbyists hired, promises made and ribbons cut.
Now, a review done by the State of West Virginia of the long-proposed highway projects show them at the bottom of the list.
Actually, they're not on any list that counts.
The Little Kanawha Parkway, which would connect I-77 at Mineral Wells to I-79 at Burnsville was listed at 144 on the priority list.
Costs on the Little Kanawha Parkway project exceed $700 million, according to the study.
The corridor, first proposed by a group of citizens from Calhoun County in the 1970s, would bring a modern highway to remote areas of Wirt, Calhoun, Gilmer and Braxton.
The study did indicate a section of the highway between I-77 at Mineral Wells and Elizabeth could be built as a stand-alone project, listed at 111 with a cost of $171 million.
The Blue-Gray Inter-modal Highway, which essentially follows US 33 through Ripley, Spencer, Grantsville, Glenville to Weston at I-79, was listed on the study at 151 and 163.
The current proposed route for the Blue-Gray highway in Calhoun would be from Triplett Run in Roane County through Rocksdale, Barnes Run, Hur, Grantsville, and then to Glenville.
The cost of the Blue-Gray highway from Spencer to I-79 was listed at $500 million, with the connector from I-77 in Jackson County to Spencer priced at $130 million.
A separate US 33 project near Spencer, the long-stalled upgrade of a section known as Scott Miller Hill, was listed at 136 at a cost of $31 million.
Gov. Joe Manchin, much to his credit, has announced the State of West Virginia is no longer going to churn these projects as if they're going to be built.
He has required the highway department to list the projects that have a chance and make them public.
The highway department has done that.
The governor reportedly told the most recent group working on the Little Kanawha Parkway, to accept reality. It is not going to be built, unless some federal program decides to fund rural access highways.
Jack Burlingame, coordinator for the Blue-Gray project says "We're not giving up," indicating the road is vital to the six counties, particularly using the Inter-modal concept.