CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox said three large highway projects in West Virginia are slowly progressing forward.
One of them being the long-planned,four-lane across north-central West Virginia known as Corridor H. The highway is designed to eventually link Interstate 81 in Virginia directly to Interstate 79 at Weston in Lewis County.
So far, 97.2 miles of Corridor H is open to traffic with another 10 miles currently under construction near Davis in Tucker County.
Mattox said the work is moving along, but slowly because currently roughly $40 million is being made available each year for the project.
“Our last estimate I believe to finish Corridor H, which is about 27 miles left to construct, and that cost is estimated to be about $1.2 billion,” he said. “So you can see at $40 million per year it will be quite some time before we get Corridor H constructed at that rate.”
The current projected completion date is 2036. However, a recent study released earlier this year by the Corridor H Authority projected an extra $1.25 billion in revenue would be generated for the state if the project was completed by 2020. Mattox said there is potential out there for more money to come in for the project.
“We here talk from time to time making Corridor H an evacuation route for Washington D.C., northern Virginia area,” he adds. “There is a lot of opportunities maybe for enhanced funding to help us finish Corridor H a lot sooner rather than later.”
In addition to Corridor H, work continues on the Coalfields Expressway. The state Division of Highways has recently opened bids for grade and drain work on a two-mile stretch of the highway from West Helen in Raleigh County to County Route 12/1 in Wyoming County. In the six-year program, Mattox said they are working to finish the stretch of highway to Mullens.
“That’s what we’re focusing what resources that we have available to put towards our expansion program in getting that section of Coalfields Expressway completed,” he said.
Once the Coalfield Expressway, designated as U.S. 121, is completed it will connect the City of Beckley with the Virginia/West Virginia state line where it intersects the Virginia alignment for the Coalfields Expressway.
And then there is the King Coal Highway which once completed, will travel from Bluefield in Mercer County to Williamson in Mingo County and connect to Route 119 near Belo. Mattox said they are currently working on a five-mile stretch called the Buffalo Mountain Project, but it’s slow going at this time.
“Right now it has slowed down a little bit because of the economy and the decline in coal production so that project has slowed down considerably but it’s still on the drawing board,” Mattox said.
The DOH is working with a coal company in Delbarton on that particular project. Mattox said they have other sections of the project they want to get done, but it all comes down to finding the necessary funds.