Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Ribbon cut on first miles of Coalfields Expressway in Virginia
The completion of the first 2.57 miles of the Coalfields Expressway in Buchanan County was celebrated Wednesday with a ribbon cutting marking the ceremonial opening of 8.7 miles of the U.S. 460/U.S. 121 Corridor Q road project from the Breaks Park Road area to Southern Gap.
The ceremony was hosted by the Virginia Department of Transportation at the Southern Gap Visitor Center.
“The ribbon cutting marks a significant milestone in the Coalfields Expressway project as it is the first mileage in the road to be completed and opened to travel by the public,” said Jonathan Belcher, executive director of the Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority. “The CFX Authority has been working closely with VDOT and our state and federal legislators to acquire funding for the project and thanks to federal appropriations, was able to see a section of the road initially planned as two lanes extended to four. An additional $7 million federal appropriation has been proposed and is pending in the FY24 federal budget process which will allow additional four-laning to further advance the expressway project.”
Two portions of Corridor Q, designated as U.S. 460, remain under construction and include the 2.74-mile Poplar Creek Phase A portion scheduled to open in late 2025 and the 2.07-mile Poplar Creek Phase B portion scheduled to open in late 2027.
Corridor Q, which extends 127.5 miles eastward from the Virginia/Kentucky state line near Breaks to Interstate 81, near Christiansburg, is part of the National Highway System and also part of the Appalachian Development Highway System.
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Blue Ridge Parkway, Forest Service announce fire restrictions
With increased fire danger across the region as drought conditions continue, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest have announced restrictions on fires.
Backcountry campfires are banned effective immediately along the Blue Ridge Parkway, until further notice. The restriction applies to all backcountry campsites and shelters, and does not affect front country, year-round picnic areas. Fires in developed areas must always be confined to designated fire rings and grills.
In the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest, a Stage 1 fire restriction has been implemented. Building, attending, maintaining or using an open fire outside of a developed recreation site is prohibited on National Forest lands through Dec. 31. Open fires may not be ignited or maintained at any dispersed recreation site, including along the Appalachian Trail. Fires may be maintained within metal rings, burn pits or grills within developed recreation sites. Propane and other fuel powered camp stoves are still permitted.
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Blue Ridge Literacy receives funding to support academic transition program for English language learners
Roanoke-based Blue Ridge Literacy has received a $70,000 grant from the Roanoke Women’s Foundation to help establish a program to prepare English language learners to enroll in community college courses.
Ahoo Salem, executive director of Blue Ridge Literacy, said in a news release that the organization has seen a growing interest among its advanced English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students in enrolling at Virginia Western Community College. But their limited familiarity with the U.S. higher education system and academic readiness skills make the transition challenging, she said.
The nonprofit’s new program, Pathways to Success, will provide adult learners with the English proficiency, academic readiness and mentorship support they need to transition
and succeed in community colleges, the release said.