The Coalfields Expressway in West Virginia. Courtesy of Famartin.

The 2023 funding bill for the federal government released Wednesday includes $7 million to widen a stretch of road in Buchanan County that would become part of the Coalfields Expressway.

A VDOT map of the proposed Coalfields Expressway.

The road is envisioned to run 108 miles from Beckley, West Virginia, to Pound, Virginia. Advocates say it’s essential to open up part of coal country for economic development; critics say it’s unnecessary, too expensive and bad for the environment. Parts of the road have been constructed in West Virginia but progress in Virginia has been stymied by lack of state funding. The total price tag for the Virginia section has been put at $4 billion. The funding included in the federal funding bill would go toward design and construction to widen a 2.21-mile section of U.S. 121/U.S. 460 near Grundy into a four-lane highway. (See our previous coverage of the Coalfields Expressway.)

A release from Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both D-Virginia, included a long list of projects in Virginia that would receive funding under the bill. Highlights include $2.5 million to replace the Wiley Drive bridge in Roanoke, $1.5 million for the Energy DELTA Lab in Wise County, $1 million for research at Virginia Tech to extract rare earths and other critical minerals from coal, and $500,000 for Pulaski to help convert a former Black school into a museum and cultural center.

The package is expected to be passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives and then signed by President Joe Biden, they said in a statement. The website Roll Call said that a vote is expected by the end of the week, and that “Each side of the aisle claimed their own victories in the package, which spans 4,155 pages. It not only covers the dozen annual spending bills for every federal agency, plus supplemental aid for the war in Ukraine and natural disaster victims, but also an extensive set of unrelated policies such as horseracing industry rules and a TikTok ban on government-issued devices.”

Here is the full list of projects in Southwest and Southside that would be funded, as described by Warner and Kaine:

  • $7 million to aid the Virginia Department of Transportation in the design and construction stages of a project to widen a 2.21 mile section of U.S. 121/U.S. 460 – the Coalfields Expressway – to a four-lane highway in order to better promote economic development in Buchanan County. 
  • $3 million for Rockbridge County to support the design and construction of a new raw water pump station.
  • $2.5 million for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s efforts to replace the Wiley Drive Bridge in Roanoke, which is prone to flooding.
  • $2 million for the town of South Boston in Halifax County to complete repairs and replace storm sewer lines in the area.
  • $2 million to aid the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority in its plans to advance rail into the New River Valley by funding a study to decide where new platforms should be constructed in Montgomery County.
  • $2 million for Amherst County to support the Amherst County Service Authority in its efforts to rehabilitate a publicly owned interceptor wastewater sewer.
  • $1.529 million for the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education to provide support to 384 early childhood educators in Virginia to participate in degree, credential or certification programs at their local community college over a two-year period.
  • $1.5 million to assist the Energy DELTA (Discovery, Education, Learning and Technology Accelerator) Lab in its efforts to deploy a geothermal cooling system and related infrastructure improvements on a site that meets the criteria for a hyperscale data center in Wise County.
  • $1.204 million for the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens to aid its construction of a PACE Center that will expand access to care for older adults in Bristol.
  • $1.201 million to support Tri-Area Community Health in the renovation of the Laurel Fork Clinic and Pharmacy to provide medical and behavioral health services to residents of Carroll, Floyd and Patrick counties and the city of Galax.
  • $1 million for the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Board in its efforts to grow sector partnerships in skilled industrial, construction and service trades in the New River Valley and Mount Rogers region.
  • $1 million to support the Marion Economic Development Authority in its efforts to rehabilitate blighted, abandoned and underutilized properties to provide more affordable homeownership opportunities for low- to moderate-income households.
  • $1 million for the New River/Mount Rogers Workforce Development Area’s growing sector partnerships to develop industry-certified middle skills for low-skilled job seekers and workers in Bland, Carroll, Floyd, Giles, Grayson, Montgomery, Pulaski, Smyth, Washington and Wythe counties and the cities of Bristol, Galax and Radford. Specifically, the project focuses on skills within the skilled industrial, construction and service trades.
  • $1 million for Advanced Separation Technologies Research in Blacksburg. This project would fund research and development within the Office of Fossil Energy for technology to enhance the ability to extract rare earth minerals and harmful materials from coal. Researchers at Virginia Tech have developed a novel separation process to recover ultrafine coal and remove the water simultaneously. This funding will support Virginia Tech researchers in the process of developing second-generation technology that can be built and operated at low cost. If successful, the new technology may be used by many coal companies in the eastern U.S. to recover valuable natural resources while at the same time cleaning up the environment.
  • $899,000 for the Foundation for Community College Education to enhance coaching, outreach and work-based learning opportunities for individuals across Virginia who have experienced foster care. 
  • $885,000 for the Virginia Center for Hospital-Based Violence Intervention, which is establishing national centers of excellence for Virginia health systems to address community violence in Roanoke, Fredericksburg, Petersburg, Bristol, Hampton, Portsmouth and Danville.
  • $750,000 for the Southwest Virginia Workforce Development Board in its efforts to expand the ROPES (Recovery Opportunities and Pathways to Employment Success) program, which supports individuals in recovery by connecting them with intensive recovery and therapy opportunities and addressing other barriers to employment. Tazewell, Russell, Dickenson, Buchanan, Wise, Lee and Scott counties and the city of Norton will benefit from the project.
  • $650,000 to aid the Appalachian Center for Hope’s efforts to provide residential treatment for individuals experiencing substance use disorders in Smyth County.
  • $617,000 for the town of Tazewell for the development of a fire station.
  • $605,000 for the Ridgeview Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital in Bristol to convert a small wing and patient rooms into a secure, high-risk behavioral health unit.
  • $505,000 to purchase upgraded technology and scientific instruments to replace aging, unserviceable equipment that is central to the undergraduate teaching and research missions of Roanoke College in Salem. It would also support the development of new and improved curricula and research that the new instruments would support.
  • $500,000 for the town of Pulaski to complete architectural and engineering design and conduct preservation construction activities for the Calfee Training School, to turn the historic African American school into a child care, community and cultural memory center.
  • $500,000 to aid St. Mary’s Health Wagon’s efforts to increase access to and use of prevention, treatment and recovery services in Lee, Scott, Wise, Dickenson, Buchanan and Russell counties for individuals with behavioral health conditions, including substance-use disorders.
  • $440,000 to support the Local Office on Aging’s Critical Transportation program in Roanoke. The funding will support the LOA’s efforts to transition its transportation services from contract-based to a more sustainable in-house model that will allow for expanded local transportation services to help seniors age in their communities.
  • $428,000 to assist Hollins University in its efforts to offer access to continuing education for teachers that will qualify them to teach dual-enrollment courses to students in the Roanoke Valley.
  • $375,000 for the Virginia Community Telehealth Access Network Pilot Program at the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association Foundation, which seeks to create a network of telehealth pods located next to post offices, providing clinical care in rural communities that lack adequate broadband and proximity to medical providers. Virginians in Lebanon, Keeling, Bumpass and Palmyra will benefit from the project.
  • $300,000 to assist the Community Housing Partners Corp., in its efforts to construct energy-efficient single-family affordable housing in Blacksburg.
  • $255,000 for the town of Goshen to purchase property to be renovated into a multi-use community center that will provide services including medical and dental services, a food pantry, social activities, legal services, a remote learning center and an exercise space.
  • $210,000 to assist the Appalachia Service Project in Lee, Wise and Dickenson counties with the purchasing of construction materials and supplies for emergency home repair and new construction for individuals below the federal poverty line in Southwest Virginia.
  • $188,000 for the Theatre Guild of Buchanan County to purchase indoor and outdoor equipment that will improve the overall audience experience and operational efficiency at the Community Arts Mainstage.
  • $169,000 to aid the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority’s efforts to train 100 community health workers with a specific focus on providing mental health services in rural Virginia.
  • $83,000 for the town of Marion that will allow the town’s police department to provide a leadership and training program to serve law enforcement.
  • $75,000 to aid the Rockbridge Area Transport System in its purchase of a stretcher van to provide non-emergent medical transport/stretcher transport services in Rockbridge, Alleghany and Augusta counties.