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Robert Byrd's 'Road to Nowhere'

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This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," March 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: It is just one of the many pork barrel projects around America that's sucking up your hard-earned taxpayer dollars. Ainsley Earhardt takes us to West Virginia's Corridor H for a closer look at the road that leads to where? Nowhere.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Corridor H is a 100-miles four-lane highway in the state of West Virginia, originally proposed in 1965 as part of the Appalachian Development Highway System. But more than four decades after construction first began, the project isn't even halfway done.

There are a few miles paved and open to traffic on the far west end of the highway and a few more miles on the far east end of the highway, but in between?

(on camera) We're standing at the very end of one of the completed sections of Corridor H. Where does it lead? You're looking at it. Nowhere.

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TOM SCHATZ, CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE: This road, according to plans, will take 66 years to complete. So far, it's been 40 years and $1.5 billion, and it's supposed to be another 26 years and another $125 billion.

EARHARDT (voice-over): The project just received another $21 million from President Obama's stimulus package and another $9.5 million from the omnibus bill, making a total of more than $30 million of federal taxpayer money.

That means the money to fund this so-called Road to Nowhere is coming from none other than your pocket.

(on camera) You might ask why is the state of West Virginia getting so many of your hard-earned tax dollars? Three words. Senator Robert Byrd.

(voice-over) According to his own Web site, the senator's been successful in securing more than $340 million in pork for this particular project, and that's not counting the most recent monetary additions.

But what's the point in building a road that leads to nowhere? The original idea for this particular corridor was to connect to Washington, D.C.

PAUL MATIOX, WEST VIRGINIA SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: Corridor H has been designated as a nationally significant highway, and it would allow an alternative to folks if there was ever a need to evacuate the Washington, D.C.-Baltimore area.

EARHARDT: There's only one problem with that plan.

SCHATZ: The road stops 14 miles from the Virginia border, and Virginia has no plans to build its own four-lane highway to extend out to Corridor H.

EARHARDT: If the original plan for the road isn't going to be implemented any time in the near future, then why keep building? And why does Senator Byrd keep getting more funding?

State officials argue that, regardless of the Virginia connection, the road still has its benefits.

MATIOX: It increases the mobility for our people. It provides better access for others to come into West Virginia. It generates tourism.

EARHARDT: But the tourists don't appear to be pouring in just yet.

(on camera) It's 5 p.m., and I'm walking in the middle of a four-lane highway. It's should be rush hour, but where's all the traffic?

SCHATZ: A four-lane highway is supposed to have 10,000 cars per hour. There aren't even 10,000 people in most of the towns that are along Corridor H.

EARHARDT (voice-over): In addition, officials insist that the project will stimulate the local economy.

MATIOX: This project is so important for West Virginia's economic development opportunities to help our people.

EARHARDT: Has it made a different yet?

GARY HOWELL, WEST VIRGINIA REPUBLICAN EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: Our state ranks 50th in economic growth. Our judicial system ranks 50th. When you've got the other 49 states paying to run your problems, you have no reason to fix them.

EARHARDT: Local environmental group Stewards of the Potomac Highlandd is pleading with the state: "Corridor H should not be built. Maintaining the roads and bridges we have would be a better stimulus. Traffic through our mountainous state does not justify a new road, and tearing through mountains, national forests, and farms is very costly."

(on camera) Once Corridor H is completed, it will be 133 miles long. So there's a $3 billion price tag. That's $22 million a mile, and with a price like that, wouldn't you think it would be paved in gold?

SCHATZ: The cost per job of this current leg of Corridor H is $175,000. That's far more than most families make in the state of West Virginia. So it would be better to just hand that money out, or even better than that, not spend it at all.

HOWELL: My biggest beef with Corridor H is earmark funding. It was not needed. South Carolina, a number of years ago, they completed their — their parts of the Appalachian Highway System by issuing state bonds and building the road and then using incoming federal matching funds to pay those bonds off.

West Virginia could have done the very same thing and not use an earmark and putting any additional burden on the nation's taxpayers.

EARHARDT (on camera): Why didn't that happen?

HOWELL: West Virginia just didn't do it. West Virginia is addicted to earmarks.

EARHARDT (voice-over): When the project was started in the 1960s, it was shelved shortly after because of lawsuits and environmental objections.

It wasn't until the '90s when Senator Byrd became chairman of the appropriations committee, that the plans for Corridor H were revived, and the money began pouring in.

Just since 1991, the Citizens Against Government Waste have estimated that Senator Byrd has obtained a staggering $3.6 billion in pork for West Virginia to date. And he seems to be pretty proud of it. There are currently more than 30 public works named after him in the state.

MATIOX: We really appreciate what Senator Byrd has done for the state of West Virginia. I would hate to think the — the economic conditions that we would have in West Virginia without Senator Byrd's help.

EARHARDT: Mr. Howell, however, feels differently.

(on camera) We're driving down the corridor, and I've seen four or five signs that say Senator Byrd's name on it, so he makes it crystal clear that this road is named after him, for him. And he's responsible for it.

HOWELL: And it's right. He's always been the driving person behind it. If you look at the omnibus spending bill, he's No. 1 on the list, but it really doesn't help us.

EARHARDT: While most West Virginians believe the road is needed, he says the government's approach to funding it is all wrong.

How does it make you feel?

HOWELL: As a West Virginia, I feel sorry. I feel like I need to apologize to the other states, because we're wasting your tax dollars. We could be doing this project ourselves. There's no reason for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: He's standing in the middle of a street there. Was there ever a car that came by?

EARHARDT: I didn't get hit. I'm here tonight.

HANNITY: In the middle of the street. Just explain one thing. It's supposed to be an escape from D.C.

EARHARDT: That was the original plan.

HANNITY: All right. But that's — how do you do that?

EARHARDT: Well, you can't because the road, A, is not complete, and, B, Virginia has not completed their section that would connect the corridor.

HANNITY: How many cars did you see in the course of...

EARHARDT: Not many, as you can tell. Not many.

HANNITY: Your taxpayer dollars at work.

EARHARDT: A lot of money.

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