Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

June 21, 2013

Highway project to include use of coal synergy

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

GRUNDY, Va. — A $108 million contract announced Thursday by Gov. Bob McDonnell will jump-start a coal synergy highway project in Southwest Virginia.

McDonnell said the Commonwealth Transportation Board has authorized the Virginia Department of Transportation to award and execute a $108 million design-build contract with Big Rock, Va.-based Rapoca Energy for phase II of the U.S. Route 460 Connector in Buchanan County.

McDonnell said the funds will not only help with the design of the connector but construct the roadbed as well. The design-build contract is set to be signed in July and will save 50 percent of the cost of building the roadway by using a coal synergy concept to provide a road-to-rough grade.

Michelle Earl, a spokesperson with the Virginia Department of Transportation, said the connector is not a part of the larger Coalfields Expressway but is a 6.2-mile four-lane limited access highway connecting U.S. Route 460 and the Coalfields Expressway at an interchange in Buchanan County.

“The road travels from phase I, located near Breaks Interstate Park, to the intersection of Route 460 and a proposed interchange for the Coalfields Expressway located between the Doe Branch and Hawks Nest section of the Coalfields Expressway,” Earl said. “In regard to the Coalfields Expressway sections, the Route 460 Connector ties to two different sections: the Hawks Nest section and Doe Branch Section.”

Earl said once the roadbed is constructed and finished to rough grade, VDOT will have to oversee paving and completion of the connector.

“Both phases of the U.S. Route 460 Connector are designated as part of Corridor Q by the Appalachian Regional Commission and are a part of the Appalachian Development Highway System,” Earl said. “Once a design-build contract is awarded and executed, the project will begin and will be finished to rough grade. A second contract will pave the road and complete the road for motorists to use. No time frame has been established for completion of phase II.”

While the agreement to begin construction on phase II will be signed in July, Earl said construction on phase I of the connector is already underway.

“Phase I is anticipated to be completed summer 2015,” she said. “It is a 0.8-mile project currently under construction. VDOT’s design-build contract for the Route 460 Connector Phase I in Buchanan County was awarded to Bizzack Construction of Lexington, Ky. in August 2009. Construction began spring 2011. The project is valued at approximately $113 million.”

Earl said there are several projects that need to be completed as part phase I of the connector

“The Route 460 Connector Phase I includes the design and construction of twin high-level bridges, 1700 linear feet in length, located over Conaway Road/Route 610 and Grassy Creek,” Earl said. “When completed the over 250-foot-high bridges will be the tallest in Virginia. It also calls for the construction of a 0.8-mile four-lane divided highway — Route 460 — starting at the Kentucky State Line, an access ramp to Route 80, improving access to Breaks Interstate Park including the construction of a bridge crossing Route 768, and secondary connections to Routes 609 and 693 from Route 80.”

Meanwhile, Earl said construction is ongoing on the Coalfields Expressway, also known as Route 121.

“The Hawks Nest section was completed to rough grade in summer 2011 at a cost of $10 million, a savings to VDOT of over $90 million using coal synergy techniques,” Earl said. “In February 2013, Virginia’s Commonwealth Transportation Board voted to approve the new location of the Coalfields Expressway Environmental Sections I and II, which is part of Doe Branch construction section. VDOT is revising the environmental assessment accordingly and will send it to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for a final decision.”

When completed, the Virginia segment of the Coalfields Expressway will go from Route 23 in Wise County to connect with the West Virginia section of the Coalfields Expressway at the Buchanan County-McDowell County line.

— Contact Kate Coil at