WYOMING COUNTY, WV – Gov. Jim Justice and leaders of the West Virginia Department of Transportation held a grand opening ceremony yesterday to officially open the new section of the Coalfields Expressway (WV 121) from Slab Fork in Raleigh County to Mullens in Wyoming County.
“This highway will bring so much opportunity, so much goodness and opportunity, to West Virginia it’s unbelievable,” said Gov. Justice. “It’s hard to imagine that Wyoming County has been waiting for decades to have a four-lane highway.”
This new stretch of road spans 8.9 miles and is the first ever four-lane highway in Wyoming County.
Gov. Justice was joined today by Transportation Secretary Byrd White, WVDOT Deputy Secretary Jimmy Wriston, P.E., Chairman of the Coalfields Expressway Authority Mike Goode, Pastor Michael Knotts from Sausville Baptist Church, and Roger Pauley from Cranberry Baptist Church.
“The first piece of this, that went to Slab Fork, was finished almost 14 years ago and sat there, and sat there, until Jim Justice came up with the idea to sell General Obligation bonds to figure out a way to pay for it without raising your taxes or making a big impact on your life,” said Secretary White. “This little piece of road cost $33 million – where would we have gotten that? I have no clue where we would have gotten that without his vision and that he came up with how to do it. It certainly made our life in the Division of Highways a lot easier.”
The Governor held a groundbreaking ceremony for the paving project in April 2019 as part of his Roads to Prosperity program.
This project also included construction of more than one mile of two-lane highway from the Mullens exit of the expressway, into the city.
“This is amazing, look at this beautiful West Virginia view standing in the middle of the only four-lane highway in Wyoming County,” said. Deputy Secretary Wriston, P.E. “We’re going to extend this four-lane highway on through Wyoming County and on down to Route 23 and we’re going to get it done because this guy said so.”
In total, the Coalfields Expressway project cost $33 million and added 10 miles to the existing network of the Coalfields Expressway. This extended the total length to 18 miles.
The new section was constructed with a 10” slab of concrete. Over 20 miles of drainage pipes were installed on the route. These drains will protect the road from water getting trapped underneath and causing failures in the future.
“Somebody had to just absolutely say ‘this area of the world is really important.’ It’s a crying shame when you think about how long it’s been. Maybe it’s been close to 30 years, 30 years in the making to open this area of West Virginia to the world,” Gov. Justice said.
The need for a highway through the state’s southern coalfields was first identified by lawmakers in the 1980’s. By 1995, the Coalfields Expressway Authority had been created and the route was recognized as a high-priority corridor and designated as part of the National Highway System.
The first turn of dirt on the expressway began in the early 2000’s. But, due to a lack of funding, paving only got as far as Slab Fork before the project stalled out. Preliminary road grading had been completed between Slab Fork and Mullens before work stopped.
In 2017, Gov. Justice committed to extending the Coalfields Expressway as part of his Roads to Prosperity program if the citizens of West Virginia passed his road bond referendum. Within one year of the bond passing by a large margin, a contract for the extension project was awarded to Kokosing Construction Company.
The new portion of Coalfields Expressway reduced the drive time from Slab Fork to Mullens to 10 minutes.