As transportation officials at both the state and federal levels look for ways to stretch highway dollars, they might take a cue from a couple of projects in West Virginia.
Both are in Mingo County and are helping lay the groundwork for a planned Interstate 73/74 corridor that in West Virginia would stretch from nearby Kenova to Bluefield on the southern border of the state. That interstate is a long way from reality, but some progress has been made on two short stretches.
One involves the state and Alpha Natural Resources teaming up to transform an old surface mine into new roadway. It involves 11.37 miles of roadbed, saving the state approximately $170 million in construction costs, according to a report by Junwook Chi, program director of transportation economics at the Rahall Transportation Institute in Huntington. Two lanes of that are open in one part of that stretch, but it was designed and constructed so that it can expand into four lanes of interstate traffic.
CONSOL Energy is awaiting a permit to do a similar project on a separate five-mile segment, which would save the state $110 million in construction costs, Chi estimates.
In these two examples, the state — and therefore taxpayers — benefit from building a safer, more efficient road than otherwise would be possible. And the projects help the two mining companies fulfill government requirements that they have land reclamation plans for their mining sites.
Such partnerships aren’t possible in every locale, of course, but officials should pursue them at every opportunity. With infrastructure needs continuing to grow and the likelihood that federal transportation dollars will either stay stagnant or shrink, developing mutually beneficial partnerships to tackle these needs only makes sense.
— Distributed by The Associated Press