Acting Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Greg Whirley announced Jan. 13 that VDOT, along with its private sector partner, Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), moved to advance the Coalfields Expressway project with Pioneer Group Inc. and Alpha Natural Resources LLC, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resource Inc. Both companies, which are Southwest Virginia natural resource companies, have agreed to step forward to advance the project under the Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA).
“VDOT’s agreement with Pioneer and Alpha begins the next chapter in the development of the Coalfields Expressway,” said Whirley. “Building on the effective development and engineering work by KBR, Pioneer and Alpha will use coal recovery opportunities to significantly lower the cost of building the base roadbed for the project.”
Under the agreement, Pioneer and Alpha will assume all the obligations and responsibilities for the next phase of development of the Coalfields Expressway project under the PPTA. KBR recently completed preliminary design and engineering for Section A of the corridor through the PPTA process. VDOT, Pioneer and Alpha will work to modify the comprehensive agreement to reflect the highway being built in conjunction with the development of Pioneer and Alpha coal reserves. In addition, the parties will seek to work with the Federal Highway Administration for the use of federal funds on the project.
“This brings the Coalfields Expressway an important step closer to reality, which is critical to the economic development of Southwest Virginia,” said Gov. Mark R. Warner. “I want to specifically acknowledge the bipartisan efforts of the entire southwestern legislative delegation — the strong support of Senators Wampler and Puckett and Delegates Kilgore, Phillips, Johnson and Bowling, along with former Delegate Stump. Their dedication to this project has helped keep it moving forward.”
“We are pleased to become a vital participant in the development of the Coalfields Expressway and excited about the opportunity to help lower the construction costs in conjunction with removal of the coal reserves throughout the counties,” said Clyde Stacy, representing Pioneer Group Inc.
“Utilizing our expertise in the construction of the King Coal Highway in West Virginia and as a major employer in Southwest Virginia, we are pleased to participate in the Coalfields Expressway project,” said Michael J. Quillen, president and CEO of Alpha Natural Resources Inc.
The Coalfields Expressway will be a new four-lane highway stretching 51 mi. from Pound in Wise County, through Dickenson and Buchanan counties. It will link with the West Virginia Coalfields Expressway near Paynesville, WV. The cost estimate to build the project is $2.3 billion.