Virginia advances Buchanan County road building/coal mining project

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said June 20 that the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) is moving forward to build the U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase II project in Buchanan County on a to-be-reclaimed coal mining site.

The CTB authorized Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Greg Whirley to award and execute a $108m design-build contract with coal producer Rapoca Energy to construct the roadbed.

“This contract creates an opportunity to save over 50 percent in the construction of the rough grade road bed for this new section of U.S. Route 460 using coal synergy,” said McDonnell. “When the Route 460 Connector is completed, it will bring significant benefits to the area, including transportation improvements, jobs and economic development.”

U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase II is a 6.2-mile four-lane, limited access highway located between the U.S. Route 460 Connector Phase I, which is under construction near Breaks Interstate Park, Route 460 and the proposed Route 121 (called the Coalfields Expressway) interchange in Buchanan County.

The design-build contract, scheduled to be signed in July, will use the “coal synergy” concept to provide a road to rough grade at a reduction of over 50% in costs. A second contract would pave the road and complete the project for motorists to use.

Coal synergy reduces road building costs substantially by using the coal companies’ earth moving equipment and construction techniques to prepare the road bed to rough grade. It also the coal companies to recover marketable coal reserves during the roadbed preparation. CONSOL Energy (NYSE: CNX) has been working for several years to get permits for its own synergy project at the planned Buffalo Mountain strip mine in Mingo County, W.Va. Alpha Natural Resources (NYSE: ANR) also does a lot of this kind of mining-roadbed work, particularly with some operations in this region it bought several years ago from coal operator Don Nicewonder.

This route for the Virginia project is designated as part of Corridor Q by the Appalachian Regional Commission and part of the Appalachian Development Highway System.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.