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King Coal Highway Authority asking for $248M from feds

Apr. 20, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. -- Members of the King Coal Highway Authority are banking on West Virginia's congressional delegation to help them land $248 million in federal funds for the southern West Virginia project.

During a visit to Washington, D.C., on Thursday, they also asked the delegation to help secure $76 million for the Tolsia Highway.

The 95-mile King Coal Highway will run from Bluefield to Williamson, where it will join the Tolsia Highway. The two highways will be part of the Interstate 73/74 corridor, which Congress declared a priority in 1995.

The Bluefield Daily Telegraph says the authority is also asking the state to make the projects a high funding priority. Among the work the authority wants to fund are a $70 million, 2.4-mile segment of the highway near the Mercer County Airport and a $20 million interchange of the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway in Welch.

Project backers also want $158 million for two other stretches of highway and $18 million for a connector near Gilbert.

A 12-mile section of the King Coal Highway opened in 2011, but the project has been controversial for more than a decade.

West Virginia has enlisted coal companies to help build the road -- a move that has angered environmental groups that claim the partnership effectively subsidizes mountaintop removal mining.

Through the public-private partnerships, the companies keep the coal they mine while grading the land for road-building in the process.