BEAVER, W.Va. — The West Virginia Division of Highways held an informational public meeting Tuesday regarding the next phase of the Beckley-to Beaver highway project, commonly referred to as the “Beckley Z-Way.”
The current proposal includes a five-lane extension from South Eisenhower Drive in Beckley to Old Crow Road in Beaver, and a partial relocation of US Route 19 south of Airport Road to Interstate 64. A modified interchange would include a “jug-handle” I-64 approach ramp from the East Beckley Bypass, with two signalized intersections within the interchange. There is no current direct link between I-64 and US 19, which are two of the region’s most traveled highways.
The estimated cost of the two-mile connector is $39,873,000.
William Baker, Chairman of the Beckley-Raleigh County Transportation Authority, said he has been advocating for a better highway route between Beckley and Beaver since the initial proposal was made nearly 15 years ago. Additionally, he said the need for an alternative to the existing US 19 has become increasingly urgent.
“There’s a lot of accidents on 19, right now. It is really crowded, especially in the morning and the evenings, and there’s a lot of rear-end collisions on that road,” he said. “The growth part of the county really is the southern part of the county, Maxwell, Shady Spring. So in order to get traffic around Beckley and through this Z-Way, (the proposed route) will help move the traffic a lot more efficiently, a lot safer, from south to north.”
A design study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration found accident rates in the area were consistently higher than the state average for similar roadways, with a majority of the crashes involving rear-end collisions.
According to a WVDOH report, the route was chosen from among several proposals because it would require the least number of displacements of businesses and residences, during construction. The recommended route also would generate the least amount of environmental impact, according to an assessment included in the report.
Right-of-way acquisitions are scheduled to begin this spring. The next phase of construction of the Beckley Z-way is expected to begin in 2021.