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Benefits of I-68 Extension Clear

For years, some local leaders have promoted extension of Interstate 68 from its western terminus near Morgantown to connect with W.Va. 2 in Marshall County. In large measure because no funding source has been identified, the proposal has moved with the speed of cold molasses.

But there has been progress, to the point that federal officials are asking for an economic impact study of the plan.

That may seem to local residents to be a no-brainer. Extending I-68 through Marshall County would be a major boon to the economy in our entire region, on both sides of the Ohio River. Still, the folks in Washington like to see numbers based on research, so an impact study should be produced.

Robert Miller, who is executive director of the W.Va. 2 and I-68 Authority, has championed the project for several years. He told our reporter the most recent economic impact study he could find for the project was conducted in 2003. Obviously, something more up-to-date will be required if there is to be any hope of federal funding for I-68 work.

Economic impact studies cost money, and the West Virginia Department of Transportation has precious little of it. Still, Gov. Jim Justice should order the agency to have the research done, to whatever specifications federal officials present.

Will such a study move the project along? We’ll never know until we try, so the state should do that.

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