Map of construction project districts

Coalfields Expressway PPTA Project

Coalfields Expressway PPTA Project

Project at a Glance

Begin Date
September 2002

Approximately $2.8 Billion (2008 estimate)


Jeff Powell, P.E., acting project manager
(276) 642-2482

Why is this road being built?

The Coalfields Expressway - U.S. Route 121 - will not only provide a modern, safe and efficient highway through the coalfields region of southwestern Virginia, but also is expected to be an economic lifeline for a region experiencing high unemployment and a declining population.

It is expected that the entire multi-state Appalachian region should see a boost in commerce and tourism as a result of the Coalfields Expressway.

Designated as part of the national highway system, the new road will link Interstates 64 and 77 in West Virginia with Route 23 in Virginia, which links to interstates in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Press Releases


What's Being Done

Currently, contract negotiations are underway between VDOT and the coal companies. 

Project timeline:

  • January 2006:  Acting Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Greg Whirley announces that VDOT, along with its private sector partner Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR), moved to advance the Coalfields Expressway project with Pioneer Group Inc., and Alpha Natural Resources LLC, a subsidiary of Alpha Natural Resources Inc.
    Both companies, which are southwestern Virginia natural resource companies, agreed to step forward to advance the project under the Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA).
  • January 2007: VDOT Commissioner David Ekern announceds that VDOT, along with Pioneer and Alpha, have agreed to perform a limited feasibility study for the Coalfields Expressway project.
  • September 2007: Alpha and Pioneer submit their limited feasibility study. The study evaluates possible highway alignments that consider areas of marketable coal reserves controlled by the companies. 

    The techniques used to recover this coal could significantly lower the cost of building the Coalfields Expressway, reducing the amount of public funds needed to develop the project. 

    The limited feasibility study provides VDOT with the information necessary to determine the viability of a “coal-synergy” solution for the Coalfields Expressway. 

  • April 2008: Gov. Timothy M. Kaine announces two $5 million Transportation Partnership Opportunity Fund grants for VDOT to advance construction of the Hawk's Nest and Rockhouse sections of the Coalfields Expressway.

    The first $5 million grant will go toward establishing a rough grade roadbed for the Hawk’s Nest portion of the expressway, which is located adjacent to the proposed Route 460 Connector interchange and Route 614 in Buchanan County.
    The second $5 million grant will go toward establishing a rough grade roadbed for a portion of the Rockhouse section of the expressway, which is located between the West Virginia/Virginia line and Route 643 in Buchanan County.

  • April 2008: U. S. Rep. Rick Boucher announces the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) re-instated VDOT's ability to request federal funds for the Coalfields Expressway.

  • May 13, 2008: VDOT holds a location and design public hearing for the Hawk's Nest section of the Coalfields Expressway from 4-7 p.m. at Russell Prater Elementary in Vansant.  

    More than
    100 citizens arepresent to review and discuss with VDOT preliminary plans for the proposed Hawk's Nest section of Route 121.

  • Sept. 10, 2008: VDOT, Pioneer Group and Alpah Natural Resources sign an agreement allowing the final design and construction of the Hawk's Nest portion of the Coalfields Expressway to begin.


The Coalfields Expressway will stretch from Pound in Wise County, through Dickenson and Buchanan counties, and will link with the West Virginia Coalfields Expressway near Paynesville, W.Va.

VDOT is currently re-evaluating the Environmental Impact Statement approved by FHWA in November 2001.  

This re-evaluation will ensure that the roadway alignment submitted by the companies is within the parameters of the approved Environmental Impact Statement or determine if further approvals need to be pursued. 


Jeff Powell, P.E., acting project manager, (276) 642-2482
Bristol area projects Salem area projects Staunton area projects Lynchburg area projects Culpeper area projects Richmond area projects Northern Virginia projects Fredericksburg area projects Hampton Roads projects

Page last modified: Monday, September 22, 2008