Coalfields Expressway

Delivering new highway to improve travel, tourism, and commerce in southwest Virginia


 coalfields-expresswayProject Background

The Coalfields Expressway – designated as U.S. Route 121 and a Congressional High Priority Corridor – is a proposed multi-lane limited access highway that will provide a modern, safe and efficient transportation artery through the coalfields region of far southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia. This is a region now served mainly by narrow rural roads.

Proving safer travel and better access

The Coalfields Expressway will provide safe and rapid access to communities along the corridor, with connections for the citizens of Pound, Clintwood, Clinchco, Haysi, Breaks, Grundy and Slate. The Virginia portion of the expressway stretches east approximately 50 miles from U.S. Route 23 near Pound, through Wise, Dickenson, and Buchanan counties to the West Virginia line near Slate.

Coal Synergy: Innovative Financing

Coal synergy reduces road building costs substantially by using coal companies’ larger-scale earth moving equipment to prepare the road bed to rough grade, allowing the companies to recover incidental coal reserves during road bed preparation.The project would also allow the Commonwealth to align the proposed roadway with Alpha Natural Resources’ existing coal reserves. Working in conjunction with these companies will save taxpayers an estimated 45% of the constructions costs.Buchanan County IDA property

The innovative partnership with coal companies will allow Virginia to advance the project using coal synergy innovation for $2.8 billion, contrasted to an estimated cost of $4.1 billion using traditional road building methods without the coal synergy savings. Segments of Hawks Nest, Pound Connector and Doe Branch are currently underway.

During construction, the project is estimated to create approximately 29,000 construction jobs over 17 years and $4.1 billion in economic impact. Once completed, the project is estimated to create 372 service jobs and an annual impact of $41.1 million plus $28.3 million in annual savings from travel efficiencies.


From its origins in an agreement executed in 2002, the Commonwealth, in 2006, began working with private sector partners Alpha Natural Resources and Bizzack, Inc. (formerly Rapoca Group) to advance the coal synergy concept. The project has since advanced planned sections of new roadway using coal synergy and large-scale earth-moving techniques to extract the coal, while leaving a road bed suitable for paving as funds become available. Segments of Hawks Nest, Pound Connector and Doe Branch are currently underway.

Fact Sheet

Coalfields Expressway Fact Sheet

Project Link

Coalfields Expressway

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