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Another WV-VA trip

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hbelkins:
Since I go back to the office on a regular (but still limited) schedule next week, I decided to get away again this past weekend for a short trip.

Drove to the Bluefield/Princeton area Saturday via the usual route (Mountain Parkway/KY 114 to Prestonsburg, then US 460 the rest of the way with a detour via Future US 460/KY 195) and didn't really break any new ground other than driving some of the connecting city streets between US 19 and US 460 on the West Virginia side, a few other streets on the WV side (the length of College Avenue and Cumberland Road between Maryland and US 460 near the US 52 interchange, and some of the other routes in the area including Twelvemile (CR 27) that connects I-77 at the partial interchange, and Mercer Mall Road (CR 25) between WV 123 and US 19/460. It dawned on me that Blue Prince Road isn't named after cerulean-colored royalty, but is the old routing of the road between Bluefield and Princeton. (Not dissimilar to Cin-Day Road in Ohio but without the hypen) I didn't drive Blue Prince, Country Girl Road (which runs between US 19/460 and WV 112) was closed, and I didn't attempt to drive any of the rest of the old road. West Virginia really should route US 52 along Maryland Avenue to connect with US 460 instead of the convoluted routing it has now. I also drove across WV/598, got some photos at the overlook, and noticed that traffic was really slowing down and jamming up through the tunnel on the northbound side.

I also checked out the construction of the newest segment of US 52 beyond the big bridge that now crosses US 19. It looks like there is going to be a grade-separated intersection at WV 123, and it appears the construction will go beyond WV 123, at least for a short length. Construction on bridges over WV 123 and a county road is underway, with some grade work taking place.

Princeton was my base for two nights, so Sunday morning I got up with the intent to head over to Covington and Clifton Forge to check out the signage situation, and then possibly some other exploring if I got back early enough. I did this by taking US 460 east with a short detour into Pearisburg to confirm the two sets of cutouts are still there, then SR 635, which becomes CR 17 when the road crosses into West Virginia, then CR 600 when it re-emerges into Virginia. I had driven this route several years ago and noted that the standalone CR 17 signs which used to mark the road are no longer there.

I messed up at Paint Bank, where CR 600 ends at VA 311. I should have turned left, crossed an under-construction bridge, and would immediately have seen VA 18. But I had neglected to check a map, didn't remember the movement from my prior trip years ago, and instead turned right. Ended up driving all the way to New Castle (17 miles one-way) and realized I should have made a left turn at Albuquerque ... er, Paint Bank ... when I saw the WV 42 signage. So I backtracked the 17 mountainous miles back to Paint Bank and finally hit VA 18. This little error cost me more than an hour and ultimately was the reason I didn't do any more exploring once I got back to Princeton.

You can really tell you are switching highway districts when you cross from Craig into Alleghany county. Lots of yellow mounting posts and smaller unisigns which are prominent in the northwestern part of the state. Not knowing for sure where the district/regional offices are, I'm presuming Craig County is in the Roanoke district and Alleghany is in the Harrisonburg district.

No more VA 18 cutouts remain along the route into Covington. In fact, all the cutouts in Covington are gone except for one lone US 60 cutout westbound right as you cross the Jackson River bridge at the city limits. They have been replaced by small unisigns. This includes the square 60 and 220 signs that were located where the routes split. Riverside Drive is well-signed now for US 220 and US 60 traffic as you head south on 220. Still no VA 154 signage away from the I-64 interchange, but there is some signage along the route guiding drivers to US 60 and 220 northbound, and to I-64 from US 60 eastbound as you approach the traffic light.

The old US 18 errors at the 60/220 intersection have been replaced by new US 18 errors, in the small unisign design. This is even though there is a correct VA 18 sign prior to the intersection on westbound 60/northbound 220.

From there, I headed over to Clifton Forge. The borderless cutouts are still there on eastbound I-64 for US 60 past Covington and US 220 past Low Moor.

Most of the cutouts in Clifton Forge are still up, although a few have been removed. On the truck routing for Business US 60, a huge modern green sign denoting the presence of VA 188 that is too new for Street View prompted me to drive VA 188 to see if there were any cutouts. And there were, in spades. I think I lost the trail of VA 188 at an unsigned turn, as it maneuvers along several city streets on its way to becoming a secondary route at the city limits, but I photographed a slew of them.

From there, it was back to Covington and beyond. I exited I-64 at VA 159 and, having seen signs for Humpback Bridge, decided to check it out. I was rewarded with an arched covered bridge that's open to pedestrians, with a small park surrounding it. After getting photos, I headed out on VA 159 to connect with VA 311, which becomes WV 311, and then WV 3 to US 219 back to US 460.

More or less reversed the route coming home today. Having noted gas prices on the way (more on that later) I filled up for $2.6999 at the Food City Gas 'n' Go in Bluefield, Va., within view of the WV state line. Followed US 460 to just past Grundy, then SR 609 across the mountain at Harman to check out construction of the new US 460, which SR 609 crosses at the top of a ridge. Looks like the grade work is completed and all it needs is paving. I noticed that SR 604 is closed, with a prominently signed detour, and also saw that SR 604 leads to the Poplar Gap ball fields. Seems like I can remember US 460/Corridor Q and US 121/Coalfields Expressway will intersect somewhere near Poplar Gap, so I can only presume that it's closed for construction of the new route.

From there, future US 460/KY 3174 over to KY 80 and US 460, with a short drive up Pond Creek Road at Draffin to check out construction of what will be the tallest bridge in Kentucky. It appears that the piers are just about poured and beams will be next. I don't know if they will be steel beams, prestressed concrete beams delivered to the site, or if it will be cast in place like the big bridge a few miles away in Virginia.

Got to KY 195, and took it over to KY 611 to complete the clinch of KY 195, then back to KY 3174/Future US 460 and came on home after a couple of stops in Pikeville.

About gas prices -- on the route to Princeton/Bluefield, the cheapest gas in the past has always been the Walmart in Pounding Mill, near the US 19/460 intersection at Claypool Hill. Something has changed. Gas there was $2.949, which isn't even the cheapest in the area. Gas was cheaper along US 23 between Pikeville and Prestonsburg than at that Walmart, which amazes me. Finding the $2.699 gas at Food City, easily the cheapest I saw anywhere, was a blessing.

Will be going through pics the next few days and will have them uploaded on Flickr and Facebook hopefully within a week.

froggie:

--- Quote from: hbelkins on June 21, 2021, 08:21:59 PM ---You can really tell you are switching highway districts when you cross from Craig into Alleghany county. Lots of yellow mounting posts and smaller unisigns which are prominent in the northwestern part of the state. Not knowing for sure where the district/regional offices are, I'm presuming Craig County is in the Roanoke Salem district and Alleghany is in the Harrisonburg Staunton district.

--- End quote ---

Yes, this is correct.  Though in my own travels through the Staunton District a couple weeks ago, I didn't really see the yellow mounting posts and small unisigns you mention.

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