Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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August 14, 2013

Tallest bridges

Road commitment welcomed

— — A remarkable highway construction project continues to quietly take shape in the mountains of deep Southwest Virginia, setting a few new records for the Commonwealth in the process.

Already home to the tallest bridge in Virginia, a new design-build contract announced over the weekend by Gov. Bob McDonnell for phase II of the U.S. Route 460 Connector Project in Buchanan County will include the construction of a second bridge that, when completed in 2015, will trump the first bridge in size and make the region home to the state’s two tallest bridges.

 It’s also important to note that the connector will link with the related Coalfields Expressway project in Southwest Virginia. And only 13 miles will remain to complete the four-laning of U.S. Route 460 from Christiansburg to the Kentucky state line.

McDonnell traveled to Buchanan County over the weekend to announce that the state has signed a design-build contract with Bizzack Construction for phase two of the connector project to complete the next 6.2 miles of the section to rough grade. The first phase of the project cost $113 million, and phase two will cost an additional $108 million. When all of the work is finished, the two tallest bridges in the Commonwealth will be located in Buchanan County.

“Creating new access through better transportation will fuel economic development and tourism opportunities never available with the current network of roads,” McDonnell said. “The U.S. Route 460 connector and the Coalfields Expressway are key connections that will open southwestern Virginia to more jobs and business opportunities.”

 The U.S. Route 460 Connector project in Virginia and Kentucky are formally known as Corridor Q and the Coalfields Expressway. Some of the work currently underway in Buchanan County is being completed through coal synergy agreements with private coal company partners. The coal synergy concept allows private partner coal companies to create a rough-grade road bed through the extraction of coal. The process is saving the state of Virginia millions of dollars in constructions costs.

McDonell, the Republican governor who has been in the news in recent weeks over political gifts accepted — and since returned — from a major political donor, is to be applauded for his commitment over the past four years to develop the Coalfields Expressway, and the U.S. Route 460 Connector projects. McDonnell also has been a strong supporter of the coal synergy concept.

It is our hope that whoever succeeds McDonnell in Richmond come Jan. 1 — be it Republican Ken Cuccinelli or Democrat Terry McAuliffe — will demonstrate similar support for the new four-laning projects in Southwest Virginia. It is imperative that the work currently underway be completed.

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