Without federal funding support from Washington, it will be difficult for state highway officials to complete the King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway projects.
In fact, it has been years since federal dollars have been specifically earmarked for these two highway projects. But that could change in the future.
While nothing is imminent, language included in a new federal appropriations bill could open the door to future funding for both the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., confirmed last month that language added to the Fiscal Year 2020 Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill directs the Federal Highway Administration to consider the expansion of the Appalachian Development Highway System (ADHS) to include roads like the King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway.
The spending bills now pending before Congress include $13.2 million in Appalachian Development Highway System funding for the Corridor H. project, which is a part of the ADHS. If the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway are added to the ADHS, they, too, could qualify for future federal funding.
With the ADHS beginning in 1965, it currenly only works in funding roadways which were in existence or had started construction prior to 1965.
Of course, work on the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway projects began just 20 years ago, so they currently don’t qualify for ADHS funding. But the language sought by Manchin will expand the ADHS to include more modern roadways, including the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway.
In July of this year, Manchin announced that he believed the ADHS needed to be altered to include more highways, including the King Coal Highway and Coalfields Expressway. This manifested into the Fix the Country Roads Act, a bill that Manchin introduced in July.
Manchin’s earlier bill would also have provided the Secretary of Transportation the statutory authority to add new sections to the Appalachian Development Highway System. Inclusion in the Appalachian Development Highway System would provide a 100 percent federal match and would also allow states with significant unobligated balances to put them to use, Manchin said in July.
These, and other ideas, must be pursued by our federal representatives in Washington as a way to build and ultimately complete these critical four-lane corridors in southern West Virginia.
Getting the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway into the Appalachian Development Highway System is certainly an important first step in that process.