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EDITORIAL:King Coal Highway: Public attendance encouraged at Feb. 20 forum

Feb. 13—Area residents interested in learning more about a new highway coming through Mercer County and other southern West Virginia counties are being encouraged to attend a Feb. 20 public meeting.

The West Virginia Department of Highways (WVDOH) is hosting a public informational workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 20, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Bluefield High School. The purpose of the meeting is to provide the public with information about the next section of the King Coal Highway near Bluefield.

This new section of the King Coal Highway, extending about 2.4 miles from Airport Road toward Littlesburg Road, will be a four-lane divided highway.

When finished, this new section will go from the Littlesburg area of WV Route 20 to the portion of the King Coal Highway at John Nash Boulevard in Bluefield, according to the WVDOH.

The King Coal Highway will be a four-lane interstate corridor that will span around 95 miles long and run through McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Wyoming and Wayne counties, along or near currently existing U.S. Route 52 from U.S. 119 near Williamson to Interstate 77 in Bluefield. The future interstate corridor is intended to open up more of West Virginia's southern coalfields to economic development.

Last December, Gov. Jim Justice, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation Jimmy Wriston and other area officials celebrated the opening of a three-mile section of the King Coal Highway in Bluefield. Extending from Airport Road to John Nash Boulevard, the $68 million project was the first section of the highway to be funded through the $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity program.

The Feb. 20 meeting will be informal, and public attendance is encouraged.

No formal presentation about the stretch of highway has been planned for the public forum at Bluefield High School, but representatives of the WVDOH and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will be there to talk about the updates and answer questions from the public.

The King Coal Highway is a major project being created to benefit southern West Virginia by giving this part of the state better links to the rest of the nation. People interested in learning more about the new span of this highway to be built in Mercer County should take this opportunity Feb. 20 to see what the WVDOH is planning and to ask its representatives questions.

The fact that this session will last for three hours offers the public plenty of chances to stop by the high school, look at maps and ask the WVDOH representatives some questions. Instead of making interested parties travel to the department's offices in Charleston, the department is coming to Mercer County.

The Legislature is currently looking at ways to insure that the King Coal Highway will benefit the communities close to it. Senate Bill 354, which is being sponsored by Senator Chandler Swope, R-District 6 as well as Senator Mark Maynard, R-District 6, Senator Glenn Jeffries, R-District 8 and Senator Mike Woelfel, D-District 5, would create the West Virginia Advanced Energy and Economic Corridor Authority Commission. The goal is to unite economic development efforts in the counties along the future interstate so they will be ready to benefit from the transportation links it will bring.

One way to learn more about the benefits of the King Coal Highway is to attend the Feb. 20 public forum at Bluefield High School.

Area residents are encouraged to participate in this important meeting and to learn more about the future Interstate 73/74/75 corridor here in Bluefield, including the next phase of the project.

Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com