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Ahern Reigns Over King Coal Bridge Project

Tue February 19, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Tracy Carbasho

Construction is progressing smoothly on the King Coal Highway Bridge, which will serve as an important link in Southern West Virginia.

The $16.3-million bridge, which will span U.S. 19 in Bluefield, W.Va., is the first of several highway projects along the King Coal Highway, also known as U.S. 52. When completed, the 95-mi. (246-km) highway will stretch from Bluefield to Williamson where it will join the Tolsia Highway. The two highways will be part of the Interstate 73/74 system.

“We are pleased to award this contract on a vital connection to the southern part of West Virginia’’ said State Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox. “This is the first of several highway projects along the King Coal Highway in the mix and as soon as we secure funding for those, we will continue to make progress.”

Phillip White, construction engineer of District 10 of the West Virginia Department of Transportation Division of Highways in Mercer County, said there is nothing unusual about this particular bridge project. Although a utility pole that was blocking the construction path caused a slight delay, he said the project has not encountered any major roadblocks.

“They are now working on one of the piers. The footer and stem have been poured and the cap is being formed,’’ said White. “As of late October, the piling at one of the abutments had been driven.’’

White noted that the foundation work for the piers and abutments could be difficult because there are some voids in the limestone near the East River Mountain that separates West Virginia and Virginia.

“I’m confident that we have a good set of plans,’’ said White. “One of the footers involves Route 19, so there will be a revision in traffic. However, the road will not be closed and we do not anticipate any major traffic delays.’’

John Farley, general superintendent for Ahern & Associates Inc. in South Charleston, W.Va., said construction of the steel girder bridge began in July. The expected completion date is Oct. 31, 2009. Gov. Joe Manchin announced in June that the construction contract had been awarded to Ahern.

“The most challenging aspect of the project will be the structural steel erection,’’ said Farley. “The project will involve more than 3.8 million pounds of structural steel, 1.6 million pounds of reinforcing steel and 10,000 cubic yards of concrete. This bridge will be a building block for the King Coal Highway.’’

Approximately 43,000 cu. yd. (32,875 cu m) of dirt were moved during the excavation phase.

Farley said the bridge will span 1,200 ft. (365 m) and tower 165 ft. (50.29 m) above U.S. 19, the East River, State Route 112 and the Norfolk-Southern Railroad. The structure will include two northbound lanes and two southbound lanes.

The King Coal Highway will eventually wind through Mercer, Mingo, Wayne, McDowell and Wyoming counties in West Virginia with the Tolsia segment stretching another 55 mi. from Williamson to Huntington.

The two highways represent the West Virginia corridors of Interstate 73/74. CEG

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