SOPHIA – Aspirations of an economic surge has officials in Southern West Virginia pushing toward the finish line for a stretch of roadway that hopes to brighten the future of the state.
The Coalfields Expressway has a plan to connect a 10-mile stretch from Sophia to Mullens that will eliminate the need for travel along Slab Fork Road.
The current contract will push the construction into Wyoming County, and that’s a big step, says Executive Director of the Coalfields Expressway Authority, Richard Browning.
“When the corridor system was envisioned in West Virginia, Southern West Virginia was basically left out – The coalfields were left out.
The contract gets them most of the way there.
“The final two miles to Mullens is in the six-year plan and we're looking to do that as soon as possible," says Browning.
Land is being cleared and heavy equipment is on its way.
"For all intents and purposes, the job is starting right now."
The Expressway has been a top priority for Congressman Nick Rahall to get done because of the incredible economic opportunities it beings, including tourism, travel, and business expansion. Now there is finally an end in sight.
"Roads are crucial for economic development. For new businesses that look to come in an area; it's a job creator,” says Rahall.
And creating jobs is enhanced by the fact the project is currently $5 million under budget.
"Our engineers at the highways are very good engineers, but when you send that same info to a construction company who's actually out walking the terrain,” says Browning, “They can save some money.”
Rahall adds that the mountains in the Mountain State don’t make things any easier.
"And we know how difficult it is and how expensive it is to build a mile of road in our tough terrain in Southern West Virginia versus a flat state like southern states or out west, so it's more of a challenge for us."
In an area of West Virginia where long-term success has come and gone, dreams are being realized once again and hope is on the horizon.