WASHINGTON — Legislation that would provide $10 million in new funding between the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway in southern West Virginia has won approval in the Senate Appropriations Committee, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., said Friday.

Byrd said he included the funds in the fiscal year 2008 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill. The legislation seeks to increase West Virginia’s federal highway construction funding by $26 million — or to more than $356.1 million for the next fiscal year. Byrd also specified in the legislation $5 million each for the Coalfields Expressway and the King Coal Highway. It now goes to the full Senate for approval.

“By directing these dollars specifically to the Coalfields and King Coal projects and securing an increase in the state’s federal highway construction dollars, I hope to send a strong signal that these projects need to get moving,” Byrd said in a press release. “I do not make the decisions on what contracts are written and when. Those are state decisions. But the people of southern West Virginia have demonstrated more than their share of patience for these projects.”

The $5 million allocations would be new money for the Coalfields Expressway and the King Coal Highway, Delegate Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, said.

“That’s entirely new (money),” Browning, also executive director of the Coalfields Expressway Authority, said. “We didn’t get last year’s appropriation because the earmarks were cut. But that is entirely new money, and it is very good news. Once again, Sen. Byrd is coming through. I hope the money will stay in the legislation, and even be increased, as it goes through the final legislative process. I know that Congressman Rahall will watch Sen. Byrd’s efforts and try to preserve those when the House bill reaches that stage.”

King Coal Highway Authority Executive Director Mike Mitchem said another $5 million in federal funds could make a huge impact on the local Interstate 73/74 corridor. A $16 million bridge contract for Bluefield was approved just last month, which will take the highway toward Stoney Ridge.

Mitchem said he didn’t know if the $5 million would be earmarked for Stoney Ridge, or another segment of the highway corridor, but said the news was welcomed.

“That’s a giant step for us,” Mitchem said. “We appreciate Sen. Byrd and we hope Congressman Rahall will keep it intact. All of this will help Mercer and McDowell counties in the long run. We appreciate all of the work Sen. Byrd does.”

Browning said every dollar helps. He said the state is planning to award another contract this fall on a two-mile segment of the Coalfields Expressway. Browning said the additional $5 million appropriation could possibly allow for another contract to be awarded taking the highway into Mullens in Wyoming County. The Coalfields Expressway extends through McDowell, Wyoming and Raleigh counties.

“These dollars will bring safer travel to some of our most dangerous roads and highways,” Byrd added. “They will bring construction jobs in the short-term, and new economic opportunities for our businesses in the long-term. I look forward to the day when we can put these dollars to work for West Virginia.”

– Contact Charles Owens at cowens@bdtonline.com

Trending Video

Recommended for you