Bluefield Daily Telegraph
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to place the King Coal Highway into the state’s six-year transportation improvement plan.
And members of the King Coal Highway Authority board of directors, who met Tuesday in Bluefield, also urged Tomblin to act quickly on Rahall’s request.
The Coalfields Expressway is already included in West Virginia’s Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, but the King Coal Highway — the local route of the future Interstate 73/74 corridor — is not included in the six-year plan. Being in the state’s six-year plan would make the project eligible for additional state and federal funding, including future TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants.
In the letter to Tomblin, Rahall said members of the King Coal Highway Authority have proposed a plan that involves the construction of two-lanes as opposed to four lanes — at least temporarily — in Mercer County in hopes of getting the project back under construction. It is estimated that it will take $66 million to build a useable segment of the interstate from its existing termination point at Stoney Ridge, near the Mercer Mall, to Route 123, near the Mercer County Airport. The cost of that could be cut nearly in half by building — at least initially — two-lanes instead of four-lanes.
“Congressman Rahall has written the letter to Gov. Tomblin,” King Coal Highway Authority Executive Director Mike Mitchem said. “We are hoping to hear something positive soon about being put in the six-year plan.”