FROM THE OPINION SIDE – Collaboration: Coalition Formed to Advance Coalfields Expressway | opinion

B.By working together, members of a three-state coalition hope to begin construction of the long-delayed Coalfields Expressway project in Southwest Virginia and neighboring South West Virginia. The future four-lane corridor will also be connected to the state of Kentucky.

A group of Virginia lawmakers, including Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell County and State Senator Travis Hackworth, R-Tazewell County, are working to develop specific laws to advance the Coalfields Expressway project as a whole three states.

Morefield and Hackworth also recently facilitated a meeting with officials in West Virginia to get Mountain State support for forming a tri-state coalition in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky to help move the pavement forward.

The Coalfields Expressway, dubbed U.S. Route 121 and a High Congressional Priority Corridor, will connect Interstates 64 and 77 in West Virginia to Route 23 in Virginia, which connects to Interstates in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Members of the Coalfields Expressway Authority Board in Southwest Virginia last week also gave executive director Jonathan Belcher permission to work with lawmakers. Belcher said there have been several meetings regarding the expressway. According to Belcher, several committees in the region have already passed resolutions to support the construction of the new four-lane corridor.

In addition, Belcher said talks are also ongoing with federal lawmakers, including Congressman Morgan Griffith and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine.

The expressway project, valued at an estimated $ 2.6 billion in total, is now included in new federal funding and is set to receive $ 7.1 million, although that funding is yet to be approved at the federal level.

By working with neighboring West Virginia and Kentucky, Virginia side officials hope to make the project more viable, especially when it comes to tracking state and federal dollars.

“I am confident that partnering with our neighbors at both the federal and state levels will be a compelling argument,” Morefield said, adding that he had also worked to build a stronger relationship with Northern Virginia lawmakers to help to advance the path. “I am absolutely committed to this project.”

In West Virginia, the Coalfields Expressway will be approximately 65 miles, and in Virginia the corridor length will be approximately 80 miles. Part of the Coalfields Expressway, approximately 18 miles, has already been completed in West Virginia, with the majority of that work being carried out in Raleigh County. Nearly 20 years ago, a two-mile, unpaved, and currently unusable section of road was completed in McDowell County. The late Robert C. Byrd broke ground in 2001 for this section of the carriageway near Welch.

We’re excited about renewed communications between neighboring Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky on the Coalfields Expressway project. Forming a three-state coalition is a great way to advance the future four-lane corridor in all three states, while also making a stronger case for the federal funding needed to build additional stretches of road.

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