The Coalfields Expressway: 50-Mile Strip Mine Slated for Virginia

By Mike McCoy

The Virginia Department of Transportation and Alpha Natural Resources are teaming up in a public-private partnership to create a 50-mile road and strip mine in Southwestern Virginia. Called the Coalfield Expressway, the road would run from Pound in Wise County northeast to the West Virginia border. The expressway is also slated to cover an additional 60 miles in West Virginia, where it is already partially completed.

Tax dollars and eminent domain will allow Alpha Natural Resources to strip-mine once-private lands, with the agreement that they grade the land in preparation for the road.

Details are still emerging, but according to a 2012 Environmental Assessment, the first 25 miles of the strip mine and road would impact 12 miles of streams and more than 2,000 acres of forest. Area residents have expressed concern about not only water and land impacts, but also potential economic impacts of a roadway that allows travelers to bypass local communities. Supporters of the project claim it will boost local economic development.

VDOT has scheduled two public hearings for the Coalfields Expressway Sections I and II. The first will take place Monday, Aug. 13 from 5 – 7 p.m. at Central High School in Wise and the second will be held Tuesday, Aug. 14 from 5 – 7 p.m. at Russell Prater Elementary in Vansant.

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