MULLENS, WV (WOAY) – “Do you realize, you’re in Wyoming County right now? On a four-lane highway.”
Many people thought this day would never come. The Coalfields Expressway is officially open, connecting Beckley and Mullens via a beautiful stretch of highway through the mountains. West Virginia Governor Jim Justice was in attendance to open up U.S. Route 121.
“We just did something that opens up the southern part of West Virginia to the whole world,” said West Virginia Governor Jim Justice. “It really touches my heart, because my roots are all from Southern West Virginia, and I love the people here. What an incredible day, it really made me proud.”
The relationship between state and local officials has been crucial in making the idea of the Coalfields Expressway reality.
“Our board will be in support, and we’ve met with every governor since the early 90’s about this road,’ said Coalfields Expressway Authority Chairman Mike Goode. “Governor Justice will be seeing a lot of us. Right now, we don’t have to prompt anybody, he’s moving us. He’s a great motivator, so we’re doing pretty good here.”
One of the end goals of the Coalfields Expressway is for all of the multi-state Appalachian region to see a boost in commerce and tourism. Connecting Raleigh County with Wyoming County should set that in motion.
“When all of the traffic starts passing through all of the surrounding counties and everything, as the surrounding counties from this end up here, as those people come through those counties coming down here, there’s so much pass through it’s unbelievable,” Justice said. “The traffic count will be significant, and it really and truly will improve the entirety county on all ends.”
Governor Justice and local officials are determined to keep the momentum going with the Coalfields Expressway. It shouldn’t be too long before another piece of the puzzle is complete.
“There’s another section shortly to be under construction,” Goode said. “They have the environmentals and everything that’s in progress for the rest of the road. I truly believe the governor wants to get it finished. It goes all the way to, as they said, Slate, Virginia, or Pound, Virginia. That’ll kind of dissect Wyoming and McDowell counties.”
Amid the toughest stretch the world has seen in some time, southern West Virginians have something to be proud of, and something to celebrate today.