Tight money may threaten plan for expressway

| 1/9/2003

Tight state budgets and regional conflicts may endanger plans to build a $1.6 billion highway in southwestern Virginia, The Associated Press reported Jan. 7.

The Coalfields Expressway, which was identified by Congress in 1995 as a high priority corridor, would run 51 miles through Wise, Dickenson and Buchanan counties in southwestern Virginia before hooking into the West Virginia Coalfields Expressway. The three counties run along a southwest-to-northeast line that hugs the state's border with Kentucky.

Local and state officials who favor the highway - including Gov. Mark Warner - say it will help solve economic problems for Appalachian residents, but lawmakers in northern Virginia disagree, The AP reported, saying there is little evidence to support the claim.

Delegate John A. Rollison III, a Republican from Prince William County and chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told the Northern Virginia Journal, "There's this powerful belief that somehow if you build a modern, full-service highway in an economically depressed area that it will bring economic growth and jobs to a region. There's no evidence anywhere that it works."