BLUEFIELD — Work is progressing on the King Coal Highway extension from the Christine West Bridge to Airport Road.
Crews are removing dirt from the mountain at the bridge and construction has now started on a bridge that will cross the upper portion of Kee Dam to connect to Airport Road.
Land is also being cleared beside Airport Road to the north to make way for an exit-entrance ramp.
James Self, job superintendent with Kanawha Stone, the company in charge of the more than $57 million project, said recently that everything is on schedule and the project should be finished in about two years.
When complete, the highway will be open to traffic traveling from Rt. 460/I-77 to Bluewell, Rt. 52 and McDowell County, by-passing Bluefield.
Self that after crossing the Christine West Bridge (formerly called the “bridge to nowhere) the highway will narrow to only two lanes into what will eventually serve as the southbound lanes of the King Coal Highway.
Traffic will then be two-way as it crosses the bridges across Bull Tail Hollow and Kee Dam and intersects with Airport Road.
Northbound traffic will exit on a ramp that will also include an entrance lane for vehicles entering from Airport Road heading south toward Rt. 460 and I-77.
“Four lanes neck down to two lanes (after crossing the Christine West Bridge),” Self said. “Both northbound and southbound traffic will use the two lanes.”
Self said the other two bridges needed to make it four lanes will be built alongside the ones that will be constructed now and eventually accommodate all northbound traffic.
Crews started working on the piers of the bridge that will cross Bull Tail Hollow late this summer.
During construction, Bull Tail Hollow Road has been closed to through traffic, but should reopen “in about a year.”
Self said the reason for for the two-lane bridges rather than four lanes is twofold.
Those four lanes will not be needed until the next segment of the King Coal Highway is constructed and it would have made this project far costlier, he said.
The next segment, according to the King Coal Highway information, will go from Airport Road to Rt. 20, then to near Montcalm and north of Rt. 52 along the Wyoming/McDowell county line, eventually ending near Williamson.
The highway is part of the multi-state I-73-74 corridor, which will eventually run from Detroit to Myrtle Beach.
However, only various segments have been completed and no immediate funding is on the horizon to pay for the next segment in Mercer County, which would extend it to Rt. 20 and include constructing those two bridges for the northbound lanes.
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com