Interstate 64 and Interstate 77 (West Virginia)

The I-64 section from Sam Black Church to Beckley and the I-77 junction is 32 miles long, and cost about $300 million to build; it was opened in 1988. This was one of the last rural interstates in the country to be constructed where the existing road was two lanes. It also marked the completion of I-64 from St. Louis, Missouri to Norfolk, Virginia. US 60 from Sam Black Church to Charleston is a winding, mountainous two-lane road, about 90 miles. I-64 has some spectacular construction, including a very high bridge over Glade Creek. All the old maps I saw had Sam Black Church to Beckley as the corridor for I-64; I do not recall any plan to go straight from Sam Black Church to Charleston. It would have been about 90 miles instead of 32 miles, costs would have been triple.

The last two interstate projects in West Virginia were this section of I-64, and the reconstruction of the 88-mile West Virginia Turnpike. The mostly two-lane turnpike was rebuilt to four-lane interstate standards at a cost of about $700 million, completed in 1987. This is one of the handful of interstates that got 90% federal funding _and_ federal approval to charge a toll, due to the extremely high construction cost (e.g. 10% state share). The Fort McHenry Tunnel in Baltimore was another.

There used to be a tunnel on the West Virginia Turnpike. It was called Memorial Tunnel, had one two-lane tube, and was about 25 miles south of Charleston. In the reconstruction in the 1980s, the tunnel was bypassed with an open cut about 500 feet deep. You can still see both tunnel portals from the road, on the west side of the highway.

So completing these last two interstate corridors in West Virginia cost about $1 billion. Very expensive rural interstate construction. But today, West Virginia is fully accessed by modern interstate highways, and highway access is quite good and fast compared to the days when the state was served by two-lane non-limited access highways.

Above, I-77 West Virginia Turnpike about 25 miles south of Charleston.

Official website for West Virginia Turnpike.

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By Scott M. Kozel, Roads to the Future