West Virginia - Transportation

Transportation

Highways form the backbone of transportation systems in West Virginia, with over 37,300 miles (60,000 km) of public roads in the state. Airports, railroads, and rivers complete the commercial transportation modes for West Virginia. Commercial air travel is facilitated by airports in Charleston, Huntington, Morgantown, Beckley, Lewisburg, Clarksburg, and Parkersburg. The cities of Charleston, Huntington, Beckley, Wheeling, Morgantown, Clarksburg, and Fairmont have bus-based public transit systems.

West Virginia University in Morgantown boasts the PRT (personal rapid transit) system, the state's only single rail public transit system. Developed by Boeing, the WVU School of Engineering and the Department of Transportation, it was a model for low-capacity light transport designed for smaller cities. Recreational transportation opportunities abound in West Virginia, including hiking trails, rail trails, ATV off road trails, white water rafting rivers, and two tourist railroads (Cass Scenic Railroad, and the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad).

West Virginia is crossed by six interstate highways. I-64 enters the state near White Sulphur Springs in the mountainous east, and exits for Kentucky in the west, near Huntington. I-77 enters from Virginia in the south, near Bluefield. It runs north past Parkersburg before it crosses into Ohio. I-64 and I-77 are merged in a stretch of toll road known as the West Virginia Turnpike, on which construction began in 1952. It runs from just east of Charleston south to the exit for Princeton. I-68's western terminus is in Morgantown. From there it runs east into Maryland. At the I-68 terminus in Morgantown, it meets I-79, which enters from Pennsylvania and runs through the state to its southern terminus in Charleston. I-70 briefly runs through West Virginia, crossing the northern panhandle through Wheeling. I-81 also briefly runs in West Virginia through the Eastern Panhandle where it goes through Martinsburg.

An interstate quality road is currently being built that will eventually stretch from I-79 near Weston, WV to at least Wardensville, WV. The western stretch is complete to Kerens, West Virginia but is incomplete from there to Moorefield, WV. It is not certain whether the highway will eventually continue east past Wardensville to the Virginia state line and ultimately connect to I-81 just south of Winchester, VA.

Rail lines in the state used to be more prevalent, but many lines have been discontinued because of increased automobile traffic. Many old tracks have been converted to rail trails for recreational use, although the state is still served by a few commercial lines for hauling coal and by Amtrak. In 2006 Norfolk Southern along with the West Virginia and U.S. Government approved a plan to modify many of the rail tunnels in West Virginia, especially in the southern half of the state, to allow for double stacked cars (see inter-modal freight). This is expected to also help bring economic growth to the southern half of the state.

Because of the mountainous nature of the entire state, West Virginia has several notable tunnels and bridges. The most famous of these is the New River Gorge Bridge, which was at a time the longest steel single-arch bridge in the world with a 3,031-foot (924 m) span. The bridge is also pictured on the West Virginia state quarter. The Fort Steuben Bridge (Weirton-Steubenville Bridge) was at its time of construction one of only three cable-stayed steel girder trusses in the United States. "The Veterans Memorial Bridge was designed to handle traffic from the Fort Steuben Bridge as well as its own traffic load," to quote the Wierton Daily Times news paper. The 80-year-old Fort Steuben Bridge (Weirton-Steubenville Bridge) was permanently closed on January 8, 2009. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge was the first bridge built across the Ohio River in 1849 and for a time was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It is still the oldest vehicular suspension bridge in the United States still in use.

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