Charleston, W. Va.— The National Partnership for Highway Quality has awarded one of its National 2006 "Making a Difference" awards to West Virginia highway teams whose quality innovations promote roads that are completed more quickly, ride better, last longer, reduce congestion, and improve safety.
The West Virginia Division of Highways (WVDOH) captured the Silver Award for its unique partnership with Premium Energy, a coal operator that is defraying some of the construction costs on an 11-mile section of a new 93-mile highway in southern West Virginia.
The King Coal Highway is a planned, four-lane, partially controlled access highway that will run through the heart of one of America's leading coal-producing regions. Funding for the highway was dubious until Premium Energy approached the Division of Highways with the idea of a public/private partnership. The partnership involved using the excess material from the mountain top coal mining operation to construct the highway fills creating the roadbed. The partnership showed a potential cost savings of millions of dollars, while providing motorists with a new highway years earlier than anticipated.
The estimated capital cost for completing the grade and drain phase of construction for the mainline and access roads, using traditional WVDOH contracting methods, was $290 million. The cost estimate contained in the fully executed agreement between WVDOH and Nicewonder Contracting (a subsidiary of Premium Energy) for the same segment is estimated between $92 million and $115 million.
Besides considerable money savings, the new approach means the project can be completed sooner. The start date for the 11-mile section was accelerated to 2004 from 2009. Currently the road is under construction. When completed, King Coal Highway will stretch from Williamson to Bluefield as part of the Interstate 73/74 corridor running through the southern part of West Virginia.