(06/25/2005)
A major 96-mile highway project, the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway, stretching across the mountains in southern WV and western Virginia, is in trouble.

About $4 billion has been yanked from the 96-mile project by the Federal Highway Administration.

Some of the WV section of the highway has been funded, but it is unclear what the future is for the entire project.

The highway agency cited delays and escalating costs in pulling the money from a 51-mile section of the highway, a four-lane road from Wise County, Virginia, through Dickenson and Buchanan counties to link with the West Virginia Coalfields Expressway near Paynesville, West Virginia.

Highway administration officials say the project is behind schedule with no anticipated date for the start of construction of the first eight-mile section.

About 80 percent of funding for the roadway project would come from federal money.

West Virginia and Virginia has hopes the road would be an economic godsend for a region with high unemployment and a shrinking population.

Highway sources note that major highway construction in the rugged terrain in Southern West Virginia, is an expensive, long-term project.

A mile of construction can cost from $10 to $30 million and take up to eight years to plan and build.


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