By Julia Roberts Goad, Staff Writer
WILLIAMSON — Economic development in Mingo Countyis moving forward, with the development of a $4 billion coal-to-liquids plant,a new high school, and a golf course and a new highway, as the result of postmine land use and private-public partnerships.
The Daily News recently spoke with the Mingo County RedevelopmentAuthority (MCRA) about one of those projects, the King Coal Highway, a four-lane highwaywith partially controlled access between Williamson and Bluefield.
The KCH will run through McDowell, Mercer, Mingo,Wyoming and Wayne Countiesalong currently existing U.S. Route 52. The highway will ultimately coverapproximately 90 miles of southern West Virginia, opening it up to faster, safertransportation.
The highway project isbeing developed as the result of a private-public partnership between two coalcompanies, the Department of Highways and the Mingo CountyRedevelopment Authority.
The KCH was estimated tocost $198.8 million. However, using a private-public partnership, has broughtthe cost down to $88 million.
Greg Bailey is the Directorof Engineering at the West Virginia Department of Highways. He explained thatthe highway would not have been built without the private-public partnership ofcoal companies, the state of West Virginia and the MCRA, the project would not befeasible.
Bailey said that thehighway budget for West Virginia has steadily decreased in the past five or sixyears, and the $110 million savings that would be seen using the private-publicpartnership to mine the land and build the highway would make the projectpossible.
“Under the budget proposedin Washington, the budget for the entire W.Va. highway departmentwould be $500 million,” he explained. “In West Virginia, $110 million is a hugefinancial impact.”
The MCRA discussed the 15-mile Red Jacket section of the highway.
Twelve miles of that section are now complete, from Taylorville to Ben Creek,including the two connectors at Taylorville and Horsepen Mountain.The final three mile section from Calico to Twisted Gun Gap is still under anactive mining permit, and the mining activity is expected to continue forapproximately three more years.
This last three mile portion of the Red Jacket section of KCH willprovide direct access to the proposed coal-to-liquids site, a 300 acre sitelocated at Twisted Gun Gap Golf Course.
Once mining is complete, Premium Energy, an Alpha Natural Resourcessubsidiary, will have constructed the three-mile section to rough grade, andwill subsequently apply for permit release, with the road bed being designatedas a post mine land use project.
At that time, the Federal Highway Administration and the West VirginiaDivision of Transportation will place a contractor on the remaining three milesection to complete final grading, paving and guard railing.
The DOT’s contractor, Hinkle Construction, has recently constructed andpaved various access ramps to the previously identified development sites alongthe already completed 12 mile section of highway from Taylorville to Ben Creek.
Leasha Johnson, Deputy Executive Director of MCRA, explained how theAuthority is looking forward to when the highway is finished.
“The MCRA is currently working with the landcompanies which own a majority of the property adjacent to the highway in aneffort to market those properties for new commercial and business development,”Johnson said. “We are in the process of developing a housing site across thehighway from the MCHS football stadium in an effort to jump start developmentalong the new highway, which we have penned Mingo County’s‘Smart Growth Corridor.’”
She went on to say MCRA had extended waterand sewer utilities across approximately eight miles of the new highway, withplans to extend additional infrastructure facilities once the remaining sectionis completed.
MCRA is also working with the West Virginia Development Office and theDepartment of Commerce to refer potential business prospects to Mingo County.
“For the first time in our county’s history of rural economicdevelopment, we have a safe and efficient means of transportation, developmentsites ranging from two to 50 acres, complete with infrastructure, and all ofwhich are out of the floodplain,” Johnson said.
“The Redevelopment Authority is anxious to put these properties to gooduse as we strive to diversify our economy with the goal of building long-termsustainability and economic prosperity for the citizens of Mingo County.”
Read more: Gilbert Times- King Coal Highway moving Mingo forward