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Changes proposed for Coalfields Expressway

By Tarah Taylor
Published On: Feb 20 2013 09:17:05 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 20 2013 05:01:08 PM CST
RICHMOND, Va. -

There's another conversation happening in Richmond Wednesday about a proposed four-lane highway through southwest Virginia known as the Coalfields Expressway.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board is scheduled to look at a proposed realignment of the road.

Those against the change argue the state is only catering to coal companies' desires. Alpha Natural Resources and Rapoca Energy did partner with the Virginia Department of Transportation years ago to surface mine coal on the proposed route and reclaim those sites as road bed.

The project has been in the works for years and only a two mile section in Buchanan County is complete.

If the board approves the change, the project will go before the Federal Highway Administration for review.

This is a description of the project from VDOT:

The Coalfields Expressway - U.S. Route 121 - will not only provide a modern, safe and efficient highway through the coalfields region of southwestern Virginia, but also is expected to be an economic lifeline for a region experiencing high unemployment and a declining population.  It is expected that the entire multi-state Appalachian region should see a boost in commerce and tourism as a result of the Coalfields Expressway.   Designated as part of the national highway system, the new road will link Interstates 64 and 77 in West Virginia with Route 23 in Virginia, which links to interstates in Kentucky and Tennessee.