DICKENSON COUNTY, Va. - Dickenson County remains one of the only counties in Virginia without a four-lane highway. The Coalfields Expressway has been in planning phases for a decade to significantly improve transportation.
The highway would extend throughout southwest Virginia and into bordering West Virginia. But after a stall in funding, a newly signed state law is giving the project new energy.
Deputies in Dickenson County cover 334 square miles, but not a single road they travel is a four-lane.
"In this profession, seconds can save a life. Well, we're talking minutes. Your travel time would be cut in half," Dickenson County Major Scott Stanley said.
Stanley told us once a call comes in, deputies are en route. However, it can take close to 45 minutes to get from one end of the county to the other. They say making the Coalfields Expressway is not just a convenience, but a safety concern.
Stanley said, "To us, in Dickenson County, it would mean more than just the concrete, and asphalt, and steel. It would mean more roads, better roads to get to jobs. Our kids could get to school easier."
A recent plan proposes 13 interchanges here in Dickenson County, which Haysi mayor Larry Yates said can make a big difference to towns in the area.
"The roads are simply worn out in here. They're narrow. They're crooked. I guess of course that's why they call it the Crooked Road," Yates said.
Delegate Todd Pillion carried a bill in the General Assembly successfully creating the new Coalfield Expressway Authority to move along development of what is officially State Route 121.
"That authority will provide a mechanism for us to pull down federal infrastructure funds that may become available," Delegate Todd Pillion said.
Since the downfall of the coal industry, towns along the planned route have been attempting to grow revenue through tourism. A major factor in that development comes down to infrastructure.
"We would just love to have a modern highway system that would allow us to connect to the interstate system," Yates said.
News 5 contacted the Virginia Department of Transportation about progress on this project. We learned in Buchanan County, five miles of the expressway that overlaps with Route 460 are in development. That leaves 46 miles of the proposed route unfunded.
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