The growth of industry in West Virginia required suitable transportation. During the first half of the 20th century, railroads and rivers were the principal movers of heavy and bulky goods. Major railroads serving the state in the World War I era were the B&O, Chesapeake and Ohio, Kanawha and Michigan (later the New York Central), Norfolk and Western, Virginian, Western Maryland, and Coal and Coke.
Rivers were equally essential to the transportation of industrial products. By 1900 the Monongahela River had 15 locks and dams, which gave it a navigable depth of 2.7 m (9 ft) from Pittsburgh to Morgantown and 1.8 m (6 ft) from there to Fairmont. In the 1920s, the Monongahela carried the largest volume of freight of any river in the United States and was second only to the Rhine among the rivers of the world. Its traffic, mostly in coal, was greater than that of the Panama Canal. The Kanawha River was modernized in 1934 with new locks and dams to increase its depth. Improvements to these tributaries created a need for improvements in the Ohio River.
A new dam and locks at Gallipolis, the largest in the world when they were built in 1938, were obsolete within 20 years. From the 1950s to 1970s, a new series of high-lift dams was built on the Ohio to take care of its ever-growing traffic.
The automobile age came to West Virginia about the time of World War I. In 1917 the legislature designated 7,403 km (4,600 mi) of roads that crossed county lines as Class A highways and provided money to counties on the basis of their Class A mileage. Another major step was in 1933, when the state took responsibility for 50,157 km (31,166 mi) of roads and put them under the supervision of a state road commissioner.
An amendment to the constitution in 1942 earmarked all revenue from motor vehicles and motor fuels for road construction and maintenance. Later, other amendments provided further support for highways.
The West Virginia Turnpike, a span of 142 km (88 mi) between Charleston and Princeton completed in 1954, was built through some of the state’s most rugged terrain. At completion the turnpike was called a marvel of engineering, but it soon proved obsolete for the amount of traffic it handled. Interstate highways, built from the 1950s through the 1980s, have had a great influence on the growth of the tourist industry and the expansion of the trucking business in the state. They have also contributed to numerous other industries, including many service occupations. "West Virginia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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