Built on pre-existing US highways, Corridor Q is an east-west oriented four-lane highway through Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia and is part of the Appalachian Development Highway System.
Project Type:Widening Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:24,000 Length (mi):163.60
Economic Distress:0.94 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):114 Population Growth Rate (%):0.03
Employment Growth Rate (%):0.83 Market Size:34,660 Airport Travel Distance:59.1764 Topography:17
Region:Southeast State:VA County:Montgomery, Giles, Tazewell, Buchanan (VA), & Mercer (WV)
City:N/A Urban/Class Level:Mixed Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:Highway GIS Lat/Long:37.131754 / -81.517737
Initial Study Date:1969 Post Constr. Study Date:1995
Constr. Start Date:1967 Constr. End Date:1986
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): 1986 Planned Cost (YOE $):N/A
Actual Cost (YOE $):580,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):2,229,621,452
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||279.70||167.82||447.52|
|Output (in $M's)||809.80||485.88||1295.68|
Corridor Q, part of the Appalachian Development Highway system, is an east-west oriented, four-lane highway through Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. Comprised of pre-existing and subsequently improved or realigned U.S. highways, the Virginia and West Virginia sections are complete, while some Kentucky portions are incomplete (either under construction, in design or in the process of right-of-way acquisition). Originally planned and promoted to foster economic and social development in Appalachia, the Corridor improved connectivity, as exemplified by increased commuting distances along the corridor, and facilitated commercial development in rural areas. An estimated 8,000-10,000 jobs have been created in the corridor as a result of the improved highway infrastructure.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
Corridor Q, part of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS), comprises a series of pre-existing and subsequently improved or newly constructed routes through Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. In total, the planned alignment measures 163.6 miles in length; however, as of September 30, 2008, only 79% of the entire length had been fully constructed. Although generally oriented east-west, the route snakes through the Appalachian Mountain passes and valleys in an elongated and clockwise-rotated "S" shape, with portions of the corridor at either end oriented more north-south than east-west.
In Kentucky, at the western terminus of the alignment, the 16.5-mile section is not open to the public, as 9.0 miles are under construction and the remaining 7.5 miles are still in the design and/or ROW-acquisition phase. Corridor Q is planned to connect with another ADHS alignment, Corridor B (at US 23), at the western end of the route in Kentucky.
In Virginia, Corridor Q is situated in the western portion of the Commonwealth, aligned through the Appalachian Mountains and separated into two distinct segments by a section of the highway traversing the southern end of West Virginia. In the western segment, the route is aligned through Buchanan and Tazewell Counties, from the Kentucky to West Virginia borders. In Buchanan County, the route is currently incomplete, with the western end from the town of Grundy to the Kentucky border yet to be constructed. East of Grundy, Corridor Q is comprised of US 460 to Claypool Hill (in Tazewell County), thereafter assuming the US 19/US 460 designation until the west end of Bluefield, passing just north of the town of Tazewell. US 19 at Claypool Hill branches south into Russell County, eventually connecting with Abington, I-81, and traveling on toward the city of Bristol. At Bluefield, US19/US460 splits and Corridor Q follows the southern US 460 bypass into West Virginia.
In West Virginia, the 26.8 mile segment is aligned through Mercer County, designated as portions of US 460, US 19, and US 52. It crosses through Bluefield and Princeton, connecting with Interstate 77. East of I-77 in West Virginia, Corridor Q does not pass through any major population centers.
Re-entering Virginia at Glen Lyn, Corridor Q traverses Giles and Montgomery Counties as US 460 to its eastern terminus at I-81 in Christiansburg. In Virginia, the western and eastern alignments (bisected by Mercer County, WV) span 120.3 miles, of which 102.5 miles were completed as of September 2008.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
Although Corridor Q community character varies by sub-Appalachia region, overall it is distinguished by the difficult mountainous terrain and rural composition. The corridor route is punctuated by a few small urban population centers, such as Bluefield, Blacksburg, and Christiansburg, which are mostly towards the eastern end of the route. Also, in Virginia, the Jefferson National Forest comprises portions of each corridor county except Buchanan.
Loosely bisected by Interstate 77, a notable distinction exists between the western portion and eastern portion of the Corridor. In the counties constituting the western portion of the route in Virginia (i.e., Buchanan and Tazewell) and Mercer County, WV, coal mining has been and continues to be the major industry. In Mercer County, tourism has become a growing industry in recent years. While coal mining has occurred in both Giles and Montgomery Counties in the eastern portion of the corridor, it has been less of a continuing influence, superseded by newer industries, commercial enterprises, and educational institutions, most notably, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in Montgomery County (Blacksburg).
Since 1970, demographic changes have also emerged between the eastern and western portions of the Corridor. Each of the five counties in Virginia and West Virginia experienced population increases between 1970 and 1980. However, since 1980 western counties in VA and Mercer County, WV saw population declines. In fact, Buchanan and Mercer County population in 2007 fell below the 1970 levels. Conversely, the Bradford/Montgomery County urban region has grown sufficiently to generate an overall population increase of about 40,000 (19%) between 1970 and 2007.
Similarly, employment growth in the region occurred throughout the corridor in the 1970's, and subsequently tapered off, except in the urban Bradford/Montgomery County region of eastern VA. Employment in Buchanan and Giles county employment declined since 1980. Nonetheless, total employment for the five counties increased by almost 50,000 (almost 60%).
Congress established the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) in 1965 with the intent of promoting economic and social development throughout the Appalachian Region. Congress authorized the Commission to carry out a number of programs, including the development of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) to promote its development objectives. The ADHS is a 3,571-mile, near-interstate grade highway system composed of 31 corridors located in 13 Appalachian states, with 3,090 miles eligible for improvement. Of these 31 corridors, Corridor Q comprises 163.6 miles (4.6%).
As of 2008, the system is approximately 85% completed and once finalized, will link the whole transportation system into an integrated network connecting to national markets and trade flows. Many of the remaining miles will be among the most expensive to build due to difficult terrain, especially the last portions, including Corridor Q.. Completion of the ADHS remains a top priority for ARC.
Local and state corridor objectives adhere to the national (ARC) objectives of better connectivity, access and resulting economic development. Localities in the Appalachian region, conscious of the economic constraints posed by isolation, expect that the corridor developments would facilitate employment opportunities and assist in balancing the economic inequity relative to the rest of the nation.
Expansion of preexisting two-lane roads to four-lanes and construction of new segments of Corridor Q cost an estimated $580 million (1995 dollars), exclusive of the incomplete sections, according to an 1998 economic impact study of the ADHS. Remaining sections of the corridor are estimated to be the most expensive. In Kentucky, the estimated cost of the remaining development is $506.6 million and in Virginia, the remaining sections are estimated at $1.072 billion (both 2009 dollars).
4.1 Transportation Impacts
The 1998 economic impact study evaluated the transportation impacts associated with ten of the 26 ARC corridors, including Corridor Q, and addressed the varying traffic volumes associated with the rural and urban corridor settings. The Study found that the widened and realigned route reduced its overall length by 9.2 miles (5%). The length reduction and road improvement resulted in an estimated annual vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) savings of 87.3 million (5% reduction) in 1995. The Corridor also resulted in annual vehicle-hours-traveled (VHT) savings of 22.7 million in 1995 (38%). Given that the route is not heavily used by commercial vehicles, a majority of the time and distance savings accrued to passenger vehicles. In 1995, over 90% of the estimated VHT and VMT savings were attributable to passenger vehicles. Traffic impacts in the study exclude the subsequent US 460 bypass around Christiansburg (i.e., the "Smart Road"), which was opened to the public in 2002.
The travel savings resulting from the corridor improvements in some cases altered regional travel patterns, especially commuting patterns. Effective commuting distances and times to places of employment have been reduced sufficiently to enable cross-jurisdictional movements of residents within the region. Commuting between Mercer County and Tazewell County, and Mercer and Montgomery Counties has increased since the corridor development and increased the economic interconnectivity of the region. Also, commuting between Tazewell County and the cities of Abington and Bristol, via route US 19 from Claypool Hill, has increased as well. Since completion, Corridor Q from I-77 in Mercer County to Claypool Hill in Tazewell and then south along US 19, provides an alternative and very scenic route for passenger vehicles, avoiding the heavily commercial vehicle traffic on I-81.
In 2006, the Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) on Corridor Q in West Virginia between the Virginia state line and I-77 (through Bluefield and Princeton) was between 18,000 and 20,000. On the eastern side of I-77, traffic volumes declined markedly to around 9,000, due to the sparse density and undeveloped area between I-77 and Blacksburg. In 2007, the AADT on US 460-Business in Christiansburg was about 24,000, while in Blacksburg route traffic was closer to 18,000 AADT. In Grundy, the AADT was around 9,000, and around 21,000 between Richland and Claypool Hill.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The 1998 ADHS study also evaluated the economic development implications of the completed ADHS road sections. Specifically, the study evaluated how the transport cost savings (i.e., time, vehicle operating cost, and accidents) affected the Appalachian Region in terms of industry competitiveness, retail expenditures and tourism. In doing so, the study found that the completed TN/NC sections of Corridor Q saved road users an estimated $88.0 million annually in 1995. This savings was forecast to rise to $210 million annually by the year 2024.
Population and employment grew along the corridor in the 1970's following the majority of the Corridor Q improvements. However, since then, population and employment have either slowed considerably or declined in several counties. In the western portion of the corridor, that subsequent population decline likely would have been exacerbated had the corridor improvements not occurred.
In Buchanan County, Corridor Q impacted the town of Grundy significantly, while the remainder of the county was relatively unaffected. Grundy historically has been prone to flooding by the Levisa Fork River, with a severe flood in 1977 resulting in many abandoned buildings. To avoid future flooding, part of an adjoining mountain is being leveled to accommodate relocation of the town and the US 460 realignment. Blasting began in 2001 and relocation efforts are ongoing. Included in the planned relocation is a three-tiered commercial complex that would include a Wal-Mart (expected to create 200 jobs) and other retail establishments, and which is slated for completion in 2010. Buchanan County has very rugged terrain, which has hindered development along the Corridor outside of Grundy.
In Tazewell County, development along the corridor has been more pronounced due to a larger population base and less cumbersome terrain. Richlands, in the western portion of the County, has not experienced much development due to the geophysical constrains surrounding the preexisting development. Claypool Hill, about four miles east of Richlands, has developed considerably since Corridor Q and may become the largest commercial concentration in the County. A Lowes and Wal-Mart are both located in Claypool Hill adjacent to the highway.
Corridor Q improvements also included a northern bypass of the town of Tazewell, and some development has occurred along the bypass alignment. A proposed Bluestone Regional Business and Technology Park between Tazewell and Bluefield would be located on US 460 with 265 acres of useable mixed-use development that reportedly could support up to 2,000 jobs. The development in Claypool Hill and throughout Tazewell County is estimated to have created and/or supported as many as 5,000 total jobs over time
Bluefield, one of the larger population centers along the corridor straddling the Virginia/West Virginia border in Tazewell and Mercer Counties, has been impacted by Corridor Q due to a southern bypass. The southern bypass effectively relocated the center of the town southward to previously undeveloped land, as almost all residential and commercial development in the town subsequent to the construction occurred along the northern side of the new alignment. The ensuing development is reported to have produced employment opportunities for as many as 3,000 individuals. Commercial development along the route in Bluefield includes a Wal-Mart Supercenter, Sam's Club, Lowe's, and a number of restaurants.
In Mercer County, WV, the only other community influenced by the corridor is Princeton, located just west of the intersection with I-77 and about ten miles east of Bluefield. . Princeton has benefitted significantly from Corridor Q, given that the interchange with I-77 is one of the heaviest trafficked sections within the County. Almost all the development in Princeton can be attributable to the construction of the corridor. Prior to the improvement, there was one hotel and only a handful of restaurants in the town. In 2009, there were ten hotels/motels with two more under construction, and approximately 25 restaurants. A new Lowes opened in 2007 and a Wal-Mart Supercenter opened in 2003 (not located directly on Corridor Q). Some retail clustering has occurred along the route and around the Wal-Mart Supercenter. Reportedly, as much as 85% of all Mercer County employment is located within a one mile drive of US 460.
In the eastern Virginia section, Giles County has remained relatively unchanged since the 1970's, partially attributable to the terrain and because of the Jefferson National Forest that surrounds the corridor. Montgomery County, in contrast, has changed dramatically in recent decades although not all the growth is due to Corridor Q. Much of the growth is due tothe presence of I-81 and growth associated with Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. In 1985, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center was established adjacent to US 460, and in 2009 employed 2,000 people. Expansion is planned and under construction. In 1990, the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg was opened and in 2007 the New River Valley Center opened.
Corridor Q has generally fostered growth in the retail sector, primarily in big-box establishments. Availability of commercial goods and services within the region has helped to retain the existing population base by both providing employment opportunities and providing local shopping options.
Overall, the Corridor has contributed to the creation and/or retention of an estimated 8,000-10,000 jobs in the counties located along the route, especially along the section of the route from Tazewell County, Virginia through Mercer County, West Virginia. At the ends of the route, the impacts are less pronounced or attributable to the Corridor itself, with the eastern end influenced more by I-81 and the western end sparsely populated and still under development. Nevertheless, the Corridor succeeded in retaining jobs in otherwise poorly accessible areas, thereby ensuring the communities' survival.
Non-transportation factors have contributed significantly to the economic development surrounding Corridor Q, in many instances outweighing the effects of improved connectivity enabled by the corridor. The rugged Appalachian terrain has dictated the extent of development, placing constraints on the locations of feeder roadways, connections, population centers, businesses locations, etc. Also, the Jefferson National Forest further restricts development surrounding the corridor. Automation of the coal mining industry (especially in the western portion of the corridor) has led to job losses. The decrease in employment opportunities resulted in declining population and falling demand, as rural wage earners migrated to urban centers that offer higher paying employment opportunities. The limited availability of water, sewer and broadband connectivity in western portion of the corridor, which has only recently been developed between population clusters, has hindered growth.
VDOT District 1 (Bristol District)
Cumberland Plateau Planning District Commission (VA)
VDOT District 2 (Salem District)
Economic Development Department, Montgomery County, VA
Tazewell County, VA
Appalachian Regional Commission
Mercer County Economic Development Authority (WV)
Case Study Developed by Wilbur Smith Associates