After two or three years of construction, part of the new West Virginia 10 opened to traffic Monday afternoon. The wider, straighter road from Huntington High School to Cedar Crest Drive cuts a few minutes off the driving time and allows for faster movement of traffic through the area.
The new two-lane road is a blend of old and new. It’s wider, with wide lanes and real berms that can be used by pedestrians or bicyclists. It’s an improvement over the idea that roads are for cars only. On the other hand, for most of its length the new road is not made for people to live or work along. Access to the new road will be by sections of the old road now acting as feeder roads.
The new road will be welcomed by many people who travel Route 10 to and from Huntington frequently. Yet driving it can be a reminder that it is only part of a larger project that was once dreamed of.
In the late 1970s, it was obvious the road between Huntington and Logan needed to be improved. Corridor G was in the works between Williamson and Charleston. The Tolsia Highway was under construction in the Tug Valley to improve the road on a heavily used coal truck route between Mingo County and coal docks on the Big Sandy River.
In between was Route 10 from Huntington to Logan. Or perhaps more accurately, between Huntington and Chapmanville, as Route 10 would connect with Corridor G there.
There was a call by some influential people in Huntington to have Route 10 upgraded, too. But those pleas went unanswered, as did demands to upgrade Route 2 along the Ohio River from Huntington to Point Pleasant and beyond.
Move ahead 40-some years. Corridor G was completed years ago. So was the Tolsia Highway. Routes 2 and 10 are much the same as they were then.
Corridor G allowed people in Logan easier access to jobs, medical care, stores and other opportunities in Charleston. Not having an improved Route 10 cost the Huntington area the same access to the Logan market that Charleston now enjoys. That was what people in Huntington feared. But what’s past is past.
Back to the new Route 10 in Cabell County: The project was revived in the late 1990s when Cecil Underwood was governor. It was shelved until Earl Ray Tomblin, a native of Chapmanville, was governor.
Looking ahead, it’s still another 50 miles or so from Cedar Crest Road to Corridor G at Chapmanville. Building the first three or four miles of Route 10 took 40 years and $23 million. Or figure three years and $23 million. At that rate, the remainder of the road will take about 51 years and $400 million.
That’s a big hurdle to jump over, and it assumes no other major projects demand attention. One such project is a proposed new bridge over the Ohio River north of Huntington in the Cox Landing area. So, straightening the curves and flattening the hills between Huntington and Chapmanville will have to compete against other needs and desires.
We’re talking about an effort that would require the work and attention of one or two generations. It might get done. It might not. In the meantime, people who drive in the Huntington area have a new section of road they can enjoy — one they’ve waited for a long time.