The West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) and the Coalfields Expressway Authority welcome you to our COALFIELDS EXPRESSWAY website! This site is intended to provide information concerning this transportation corridor, including its importance to the citizens of West Virginia and the United States, its history, and the current status of development. We hope you find this website informative and if you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact us. Enjoy your visit!
The Coalfields Expressway project is intended to provide a multi-lane expressway, with partial control of access, connecting I-64/I-77 (the WV Turnpike) at Beckley, West Virginia (WV), and US 23 at Slate, Virginia (VA). This modern, safe and efficient transportation corridor through the Appalachian Mountains of southern WV and western VA also is expected to promote economic development opportunities for this region. In WV, the Coalfields Expressway will be about 65 miles long and in VA, the length of the corridor will be about 50 miles.
The steep terrain and rugged topography prominent in this region result in high construction costs for site development for businesses and residences, for utility installation, and for transportation facilities. The existing two-lane roadways have many deficiencies for today's transportation needs, including a high percentage of "No Passing" zones, many steep grades and areas of reduced speeds through many communities and school zones, all of which affects travel time and cost of transport of commodities to and from the region. Most of this area developed as a result of the coal industry, the influence of which has been so strong that it has affected land use, population characteristics, community services, housing development, the economy, and transportation opportunities. Over the last few decades, however, portions of this region have experienced a decline in population, employment, and economic opportunities due to changes in the coal industry.
The need for the construction of the Coalfields Expressway may be attributed to identified deficiencies regarding three basic transportation issues: 1) existing roadway conditions; 2) safety; and 3) economic opportunities. The highway corridor is characterized by steep grades, sharp horizontal curves, constant changes in driving conditions, and the presence of communities, schools, and “No Passing” zones. In addition, poor sight distance, numerous access points from secondary roads, and both residential and commercial driveways combine to create safety deficiencies and impede travel and efficiency. Warning signs and speed limit reductions are used as a means to alert drivers of potentially dangerous conditions. Along the Coalfields Expressway corridor, the existing traveled way of the WV portion is about 92 miles, most of which is two lanes. After construction is complete, however, the corridor length will be reduced to about 65 miles of four-lane highway.
Existing Roadway Conditions
The existing routes within the Coalfields Expressway corridor are typical of most rural WV highways: winding two-lane highways having sections of severe horizontal and vertical curvature and limited sight distance. The pavement width for these highways is typically 24 feet, although several sections are 18 feet wide. The graded cross-section is generally 28 feet, which includes shoulder widths of 2 feet. Additionally, no access control exists on these routes. As a result, driveway connections to residences and businesses are located along the route, creating numerous points of conflict.
The corridor traverses a mountainous area characterized by steep, narrow, winding stream valleys. In many areas, the roads were constructed parallel to streams to avoid substantial excavations. This type of construction resulted in sharp horizontal curves that do not satisfy the 50-mph design speed criteria identified by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Winding routes and steep grades impede truck flow and automobiles traveling behind these trucks. Steep grades also create sight distance problems for approaching vehicles that cannot see the slow-moving or stopped line of vehicles.
For many years, the improvement of Coalfields Expressway has been an important issue to residents, community leaders, businesses, elected officials, and public agencies. Previous accident analyses indicate that much of the corridor had higher crash rates than the West Virginia-base crash rates, and a majority of the corridor experienced a higher percentage of crashes involving fatalities and injuries than the statewide average. Further, much of the corridor experienced higher percentages of “head-on” collisions and “side-swipe” crashes than the statewide average. These crash types typically are indicative that the existing roadway is not adequate for existing traffic conditions, e.g., lanes are too narrow.
The coal industry and local populace place high transportation demands on the existing highway system. Because the coal industry is the largest component of the local economy and is anticipated to remain so in the future, it is important to provide efficient coal truck passage within and through this region. In addition to enhancing coal operations, the improvement of Coalfields Expressway will facilitate the achievement of other long-term economic development goals of community leaders in this area, which include attracting other suitable industries, improving the infrastructure, and providing better job training programs. The completion of the Coalfields Expressway also will provide improved access for the Indian Ridge Industrial Park in McDowell County and the John D. Rockefeller IV Industrial Park in Wyoming County, as well as several recreational and tourism industries along this corridor.
The Coalfields Expressway Authority published in December 2006 an Economic Impact Study concerning the Expressway. The conclusions of that study indicate that the Coalfields Expressway is expected to allow for its counties to generate increased economic growth and to be connected to one of the fastest growing areas in the region (Raleigh County), and the data confirm that the presence of the Coalfields Expressway would make a significant improvement in the region's economic conditions.
The preferred alternative alignment of the Expressway is such that it traverses land that may be subject to coal mining activities. As a result, the WVDOH and Coalfields Expressway Authority may forge partnerships, when and where appropriate, to facilitate the construction to rough grade alignment of the Expressway as part of a Post-Mining Land Use or other coal mining project. These partnerships can result not only in a significant reduction of the cost of the Expressway, but also can greatly expedite the completion of sections of the Expressway that otherwise may not be constructed for many years. The Indian Ridge Industrial Park and an approximate one-mile section of the Coalfields Expressway adjacent to that Park were constructed by virtue of such a partnership.
- Information concerning the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (which serves Raleigh County and others) is available at [NRGRDA].
- Information concerning the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority is available at [WCEDA].
- Information concerning the McDowell County Economic Development Authority is available at [MCEDA].