Public meeting tonight on proposed Hobet access road in Boone County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Representatives with the state Division of Highways will be in Boone County Monday night to talk about the details of the proposed 2.6 mile access road designed to link Route 119 directly to the former Hobet Mine property, a reclaimed mine site.

An informational public meeting was scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. at Brookview Elementary School in Foster.

As proposed, the Hobet Development Site Access Road would include four lanes, starting at Route 119 near its intersection with Route 3. Governor Earl Ray Tomblin sees better access to what had been previously been a mountaintop removal mine site as a path to economic development.

The Hobet site includes 12,000 acres that could potentially be built on, according to Chris Stadelman, Tomblin’s chief of staff. The access road, with an estimated cost of $100 million, is the first phase of the project.

“This is a bigger picture, ‘blue sky’ kind of idea that we haven’t seen in West Virginia in quite some time, if ever,” Stadelman said.

The Contractors Association of West Virginia has publicly opposed the Hobet road plan.

“The issue is not whether this is a good project or not. We would like to see every economic development project developed,” said Mike Clowser, executive director.

“The bottom line in this case is the Division of Highways continues to hemorrhage in funding and this $100 million which, granted, our members will participate in and our members will benefit from, but we’ve still got roads to maintain and bridges to maintain.”

His organization, Clowser said, is “probably one of the biggest proponents of the ‘build it and they will come’ strategy.” With the Hobet access road, though, he said, “we cannot support diverting money from an already distressed State Road Fund to build this project.”

Initially, West Virginia failed to secure $40 million in funding for the road from the U.S. Department of Transportation, but Stadelman said that does not eliminate such federal funding as an option in the future.

Five companies have shown an interest in being the design-build contractor for the highway project, according to Stadelman. Bids are scheduled to be opened in October with construction to start as early as March 2017.

No formal presentation will be made at Monday night’s DOH informational public meeting that is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Brookview Elementary School, 1 Learning Way, Foster, W.Va.

A handout with project details will be available and DOH officials will be answering questions.

The public comment period on the project continues through Sept 15.

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