Stalled transportation projects in Mountain State may finally ge - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Stalled transportation projects in Mountain State may finally get green light


(WVVA) After Congress passed a five-year, $300 billion highway bill earlier this month, several stalled projects in the Mountain State may finally get the green light. 

At a press conference at the New River Transit Authority in Beckley on Tuesday, Rep. Evan Jenkins (R) announced that West Virginia's share of bill will be around $2 billion. "This is finally an opportunity for our highway officials to make long-range plans and do to big projects for a change that we haven't been able to do in a number of years."

Jenkins said the FAST Act highway bill is the most comprehensive transportation bill in a decade. But now, former state Senator Richard Browning is asking the feds to pick up where they left off on projects like the Coalfields Expressway, which have been in a holding pattern. "They didn't do any additional taxes. Now, to help an area like where we live, we need additional dollars. You can do that by raising the gas tax, by diverting an existing tax somewhere to come up with some dollars to give us a special shot."

Browning, who now serves as the Executive Director of the Coalfields Expressway Authority, said the magnitude of the project should not be underestimated. In the 1960's, the War on Poverty set in motion a plan to build Route 460. Today, he believes a similar effort is needed to connect several under served areas such as Slab Fork, Mullens, and Welch. 

"Fifty years ago, when the Appalachian Regional Highway system was developed, they left a huge hole in Southern West Virginia. We spend money everyday overseas to help underprivileged countries. We've got an under served part of the state here that needs help too," added Browning. 

With the help of state funds, Browning said construction is underway on a section of the road connecting Route 54 to Slab Fork. After paving on that project is complete in 2018, he said work will begin to secure funding for the next leg of the project extending to Mullens. 

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