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Author Topic: Coalfields Expressway  (Read 5118 times)

hbelkins

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #25 on: January 07, 2019, 02:56:55 PM »

This area has two things working to its advantage. One is an available workforce. These are chronically high-unemployment areas. The other is an abundance of available land for development on the sites of former surface mines. The big problem is getting raw materials in and finished products out. I'm not sure what could be manufactured in this area, but I would think that with the abundance of timber on the hillsides, lumber-related industry would work well.
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froggie

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #26 on: January 07, 2019, 11:00:07 PM »

Quote from: hbelkins
One is an available workforce. These are chronically high-unemployment areas.

However, are they educated/skilled workers?  That's something employers look at as well.  And is one reason why several areas that DO have ready access to Interstate highways (not to mention rail) are suffering.

I don't know enough about the area to answer the above question, but in terms of economic development, it is one that needs to be asked and answered.
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seicer

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #27 on: January 07, 2019, 11:23:06 PM »

The problem with an available workforce is that the skills may not match what is desired, and the workforce in much of Appalachia is wholly undereducated for many reasons that are beyond the scope of this thread. And while there is ample flat land on mountaintop removal sites, it's certainly not attracting industry. The Herald-Leader did a great article exposing many of Kentucky's industrial park developments and found that the majority were empty or vastly underused, especially in Appalachia, and it kind of boiled down to the chicken and the egg question: do you build out sites in hopes of attracting industry, or wait and hold out to build such a site of a developer is interested? And some of those sites may be unsuitable if the ground isn't stable enough (stability on some large-scale mountaintop removal sites has long been an issue).
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hbelkins

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #28 on: January 08, 2019, 10:46:14 AM »

Part of the issue with these industrial parks in Kentucky has been that localities rushed to build spec buildings on them in the hopes that someone would move into them.
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VTGoose

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #29 on: January 08, 2019, 01:35:32 PM »

If one steps back a bit and looks at the path of the Coalfields, one can see something of a continuum with US 19/ARC Corridor "L" at its NE end and US 23/continuing down to I-26 to the SW -- sort of an "alternate route" to I-77 and  I-81 to get from I-79 (and I-68 for that matter) down to eastern TN western NC.  But it would serve as just that -- a corridor through an economically depressed area rather than a conduit to that area.  Some marginal revenue might be gained from roadside services, but hardly enough to even come close to covering the overall (fiscal and environmental) costs of deployment.  Coalfields/US 121 can't realistically be viewed as anything but a "make-work" project, promising some employment during its construction phase -- but as far as having a lasting positive effect on the region, the prospects are pretty dim.  Even if it does draw more traffic than its most vehement skeptics assert, that will do next to nothing toward revitalizing a single-industry area that, as others have suggested, should have been weaned off its all-coal economic dependency long ago.

Gee, maybe all of us who live in this horrible part of the country should just crawl off and die.

U.S. 19 between I-79 and Beckley started out as a mostly two-lane highway, with four-lanes in some places, such as Oak Hill, Fayetteville (New River Bridge), and Summersville. It was just a corridor shortcutting around Charleston for north/south traffic. But as traffic increased, so did the need for services. For a long time, about the only convenient place to stop was the Dairy Queen in Summersville. But people saw a need for services and Summersville and Fayetteville have grown to serve the needs. Granted, working at WalMart may not be as lucrative as mining coal, but when jobs are scarce that may not be a bad thing.

As to this economically depressed area, there are people who aren't giving up on their home. Tourism is a growing industry in places and businesses are responding to the demand for food and lodging. A popular pastime, trail riding on ATVs, is attracting people to the region. There are also people who are discovering and opening areas for those who want challenges in rock climbing. Hiking trails are also growing as the land recovers from the ravages of the all-coal economic dependency of the past.

Just because the place appears dead doesn't mean it can't be helped by better roads.

Bruce in Blacksburg
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Beltway

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #30 on: January 08, 2019, 01:44:51 PM »

Gee, maybe all of us who live in this horrible part of the country should just crawl off and die.

Like I pointed out the 3 Virginia counties that the CFX would pass thru have about 100,000 population total.  Arguments can be made about the cost justification for building the CFX about whether it can be justified.  But as one poster suggested that they all just move away, while some might do that, most probably see their roots in those counties for generations, and want to see some attempts at economic development. 

The ADHS highways certainly have been well justified, and only in about 2022 or 2023 will US-460 be completed, and that plan goes back to 1965.
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SP Cook

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #31 on: January 08, 2019, 01:51:16 PM »


Gee, maybe all of us who live in this horrible part of the country should just crawl off and die.

U.S. 19 between I-79 and Beckley started out as a mostly two-lane highway, with four-lanes in some places, such as Oak Hill, Fayetteville (New River Bridge), and Summersville. It was just a corridor shortcutting around Charleston for north/south traffic. But as traffic increased, so did the need for services. For a long time, about the only convenient place to stop was the Dairy Queen in Summersville. But people saw a need for services and Summersville and Fayetteville have grown to serve the needs. Granted, working at WalMart may not be as lucrative as mining coal, but when jobs are scarce that may not be a bad thing.


Well, no.  First, the retail activity of the region you cite is today far less than during coal's peak.  Wal-Mart is not new retail, it is just replacing SOME of the local retailers that came before.  It was not created by the road, other than in the sense that it was logical to build it there, rather than somewhere else.  But more importantly, all retail is derivative of whatever the economic activity of the place is.  Put in a broad brush way, Wal-Mart workers (and everybody else, from teachers to electric company workers to police) ARE coal miners, because, but for the coal miners producing the real good, there is no reason to live there in the first place. 

As to roadside services, of course, roadside stores will sell some gas and food to those passing through.  If it were possible to build an underwater tunnel across the Atlantic, there would be such places as well.  That does not mean that the bottom of the ocean has economic potential.  The CE would just be, as well stated, a way THROUGH the Coalfields, a way for people and freight to get from one useful place to another useful place, through a place with no economic potential remaining.

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The Ghostbuster

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #32 on: January 08, 2019, 03:09:02 PM »

Couldn't they build the highway completely as a two-lane road, assuming it needs to be constructed at all?
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hbelkins

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #33 on: January 08, 2019, 03:34:31 PM »

Couldn't they build the highway completely as a two-lane road, assuming it needs to be constructed at all?

I suppose they could build the grade for four lanes, but just pave and complete two lanes (a la the Industrial Parkway in northeastern Kentucky). They tried building Corridor L (US 19) as a mostly two- and three-lane route, and ended up having to buy a bunch of property and do a lot of blasting  to widen it to four lanes. And now Kentucky is widening the two-lane portion of the Mountain Parkway and is having some of the same things happen, although the terrain is not nearly as steep as what US 19 traverses.
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sparker

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #34 on: January 08, 2019, 04:06:48 PM »

I was simply iterating the realities of the regional situation -- not suggesting, as others have, that the area be generally vacated and left to rot.  I suppose a more efficient road through the area couldn't hurt -- but whether it (a) will justify its expense or (b) will actually make a difference regarding the economic prospects of the region are things that will likely be determined well down the road (no pun intended!).  Other things endemic to any regional remedies -- addressing social isolation, cleanup of coal-related detritus, re-education of the local workforces, and a myriad of other checklist items, will need to be dealt with before any progress can be made -- US 121 by itself won't even begin to do the trick.  And the idea of initial construction of 2 lanes on a 4 land ROW seems to be a valid way to get the corridor completed sooner than later -- get something on the ground before inflation eats away at the C/B calculus.  At least the road will have one thing going for it -- as planned, even as a 2-lane facility, it'll be a much safer way to traverse the region than most of the existing highways.
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froggie

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #35 on: January 08, 2019, 07:41:00 PM »

Couldn't they build the highway completely as a two-lane road, assuming it needs to be constructed at all?

I suppose they could build the grade for four lanes, but just pave and complete two lanes (a la the Industrial Parkway in northeastern Kentucky). They tried building Corridor L (US 19) as a mostly two- and three-lane route, and ended up having to buy a bunch of property and do a lot of blasting  to widen it to four lanes. And now Kentucky is widening the two-lane portion of the Mountain Parkway and is having some of the same things happen, although the terrain is not nearly as steep as what US 19 traverses.

Given the level of earthwork necessary, I don't think you'd save all that much in building out only 2 lanes.
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hbelkins

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #36 on: January 09, 2019, 01:11:33 PM »

Couldn't they build the highway completely as a two-lane road, assuming it needs to be constructed at all?

I suppose they could build the grade for four lanes, but just pave and complete two lanes (a la the Industrial Parkway in northeastern Kentucky). They tried building Corridor L (US 19) as a mostly two- and three-lane route, and ended up having to buy a bunch of property and do a lot of blasting  to widen it to four lanes. And now Kentucky is widening the two-lane portion of the Mountain Parkway and is having some of the same things happen, although the terrain is not nearly as steep as what US 19 traverses.

Given the level of earthwork necessary, I don't think you'd save all that much in building out only 2 lanes.

Having just driven KY 67 (Industrial Parkway) again this past weekend, I've often wondered about the thinking behind the decision not to build it as a full four lanes from the start.
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seicer

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #37 on: January 09, 2019, 01:14:30 PM »

It has low traffic volumes, even a decade+ after it was completed. There are talks of widening it with Brady Industries *potentially* coming into East Park at the southern terminus.
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Bitmapped

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #38 on: January 10, 2019, 08:07:12 PM »

Couldn't they build the highway completely as a two-lane road, assuming it needs to be constructed at all?

I suppose they could build the grade for four lanes, but just pave and complete two lanes (a la the Industrial Parkway in northeastern Kentucky). They tried building Corridor L (US 19) as a mostly two- and three-lane route, and ended up having to buy a bunch of property and do a lot of blasting  to widen it to four lanes. And now Kentucky is widening the two-lane portion of the Mountain Parkway and is having some of the same things happen, although the terrain is not nearly as steep as what US 19 traverses.

Given the level of earthwork necessary, I don't think you'd save all that much in building out only 2 lanes.

Pavement construction isn't cheap. WVDOH is spending $39M to pave the already graded roadbed for 8.87 miles of Coalfields Expressway in Wyoming and Raleigh counties. There's a $70M paving project for 14.6 miles of US 35. If you don't need all four lanes to handle the traffic, there's a lot of money that can be saved upfront even if you do all the other earthwork and grading for the four lanes. There are also recurring savings of not having to patch, plow, and resurface the lanes.

I think the best bet would be to buy enough ROW upfront so you could do any construction necessary to blast/grade/build a second set later without impacting the first set of lanes. Land in most of these areas is cheap, especially when there's not already the highway adjacent to it. Spend a little more upfront on property now, bank the savings on maintenance costs, and build the second set of lanes way down the line if it ever becomes necessary.
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seicer

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #39 on: January 22, 2019, 11:23:46 AM »

New photos of the Coalfields Expressway construction by Rodney Reed in a group I belong to:







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codyg1985

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #40 on: January 22, 2019, 12:47:40 PM »

Where are these photos taken from?
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Cody Goodman
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seicer

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #41 on: January 22, 2019, 01:31:04 PM »

In this vicinity but unsure on specifics: https://goo.gl/maps/o1g7P6gDmL12
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sparker

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #42 on: January 22, 2019, 05:37:08 PM »

^^^^^^^^
Now -- would those black sedimentary layers shown in the picture of the Coalfields cuts actually be coal itself?  Would, of course, make the facility name particularly appropriate!   
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seicer

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #43 on: January 22, 2019, 09:28:45 PM »

It looks like it - much darker than the shale. I would assume that West Virginia partnered with coal excavators like they did with the King Coal Highway, allowing them to excavate the cuts for the coal and benching it to state standards.
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sparker

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #44 on: January 22, 2019, 09:37:29 PM »

^^^^^^^^
Now -- would those black sedimentary layers shown in the picture of the Coalfields cuts actually be coal itself?  Would, of course, make the facility name particularly appropriate!   
It looks like it - much darker than the shale. I would assume that West Virginia partnered with coal excavators like they did with the King Coal Highway, allowing them to excavate the cuts for the coal and benching it to state standards.

Just the geologic aspects of this corridor along would make it, regardless of current warrant or potential traffic, a most interesting and unusual drive.  Just hope I'm still around to at least see a "drivealong" video once it's done!
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Bitmapped

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #45 on: January 22, 2019, 10:16:34 PM »

It looks like it - much darker than the shale. I would assume that West Virginia partnered with coal excavators like they did with the King Coal Highway, allowing them to excavate the cuts for the coal and benching it to state standards.

The Coalfields Expressway has been done with more traditional contracting rather than working with coal companies. The contractor is expected to price the value of the coal they can extract into their bid, but it's road contractors building the highway. Bizzack got the last grade-and-drain contract for the Slab Fork-Mullens section in 2014.
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seicer

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #46 on: January 23, 2019, 08:56:12 AM »

Gotcha. I wonder if this will connect to a road or just simply end into a hillside? Right now traffic dumps you onto a very narrow two-lane.
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Bitmapped

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #47 on: January 23, 2019, 11:21:41 AM »

Gotcha. I wonder if this will connect to a road or just simply end into a hillside? Right now traffic dumps you onto a very narrow two-lane.

Right now, the end of the usable part of WV 121 just ties into CR 34 (Slab Fork Road). The new section is going to end at WV 54 (or a new access road to it) on the north side of Mullens.
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hbelkins

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #48 on: January 23, 2019, 06:49:36 PM »

Gotcha. I wonder if this will connect to a road or just simply end into a hillside? Right now traffic dumps you onto a very narrow two-lane.

Right now, the end of the usable part of WV 121 just ties into CR 34 (Slab Fork Road). The new section is going to end at WV 54 (or a new access road to it) on the north side of Mullens.

I guess they had to start somewhere, and the WV 16/97 "expressway" was already in place southwest of Beckley to tie into, but WV 54 as it exists now isn't a bad road to get from Mullens to Beckley. There are passing lanes on the hills, and generally gentle curves and wide shoulders. It's not the first section of road I would have built. I would have looked at the Pineville to Mullens section first.
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Bitmapped

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Re: Coalfields Expressway
« Reply #49 on: January 23, 2019, 11:28:22 PM »

I guess they had to start somewhere, and the WV 16/97 "expressway" was already in place southwest of Beckley to tie into, but WV 54 as it exists now isn't a bad road to get from Mullens to Beckley. There are passing lanes on the hills, and generally gentle curves and wide shoulders. It's not the first section of road I would have built. I would have looked at the Pineville to Mullens section first.

Agreed. WV 54 was built in the 1950s, so it's a good high speed route. Really all that it needed was a bypass of Lester, which could have been done fairly cheaply. Now, you'll have two 55mph+ routes from Mullens to Beckley and then nothing decent west of Mullens for the foreseeable future.
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