Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 6, 2014

Coalfields Expressway: Next step is Wyoming County’s first four-lane

WELCH — A two-mile stretch of road that will be Wyoming County’s first four-lane highway is the next step toward getting the Coalfields Expressway into southern West Virginia.

Work on getting the new highway into McDowell County, Wyoming County, and other parts of southern West Virginia has been continuing for years. One contract in the project was issued in late 2013, said Richard Browning, executive director of the Coalfields Expressway Authority.

“Well, we let our last contract on Oct. 8 (2013),” Browning said.

The contract was awarded to road builder Bizzack Construction out of Lexington, Ky.

The company has been working on Route 10 in Logan County.

The new 1.9-mile section will start west of Helen in Raleigh County and go into Wyoming County.

“This construction will bring the first four-lane into Wyoming County,” he said. “It’s a pretty big deal.”

The authority had approximately $30 million collected from various sources. The new length of highway now being planned is 25 to 30 percent under this estimate, coming in at approximately $14.4 million, he said.

“Before this contract was let, we had four miles left to get into Mullens,” Browning said.

A connector road to Mullens, paving, lighting, and signs and other expenses was estimated “in the neighborhood of $100 million,” he added.

“The bid came in less than anticipated, so we’re hoping this will cost less than $100 million,” Browning said. “That will be the next section that opens. They don’t open anything that doesn’t connect to an existing road.”

The authority is also working on getting a section of the highway into McDowell County.

“We’re still working on that daily,” he said.

Much of this work is focused on getting new construction permits. The authority has been working with the state Division of Highways, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The goal has been to meet all the agencies’ requirements.

“You can’t say any one agency is against the Coalfields Expressway. You have to get all the stars lined up to do it,” Browning said.

One plan is to allow a private coal company, Southern Minerals, to create a rough grade roadbed through the extraction of coal. Doing this could save the state up to $40 million, Browning said. The two-mile segment in McDowell County would pick up where a 1.4-mile paved segment of the expressway ended in 2001. The work would be completed south of the proposed interchange of the Coalfields Expressway and the King Coal Highway at the Indian Ridge Industrial Park. The park’s tenants now include a federal prison.

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