US 121 and 211 in Virginia
US 121 in Virginia
US 121, also known as the Coalfields Expressway, is a planned U.S. Highway in the United States, located in the states of Virginia and West Virginia. The road is to form a diagonal north-south route through the Appalachian Mountains, from Pound in Virginia to Beckley in West Virginia. The planned length is approximately 177 kilometers.
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The Coalfields Expressway at Mullens, West Virginia.
US 121 begins at Pound on US 23 and then travels northeast, parallel to the Kentucky border, through a heavily hilly and wooded area with only local roads. At Grundy, the route crosses US 460, then the border with West Virginia.
Also in West Virginia, US 121 passes through mountainous terrain with very narrow valleys and relatively large elevation changes over a short distance. The route continues through Pineville to the town of Beckley, where it intersects Interstate 64 and Interstate 77. US 121 ends in the town of Beckley. Beckley is also the largest town on the route.
US 121 was one of the original US Highways of 1926, this route ran north-south from Wytheville, Virginia to Lexington, North Carolina. In 1934, however, US 52 was extended to the southeast, taking over the route of the original US 121, which ceased to exist.
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The current US 121 was introduced in 2005, although no part of the route was actually built for a long time.
The Coalfields Expressway is an expressway according to the definition of the MUTCD, basically a divided highway with 2×2 lanes, but not completely grade separated access. The Coalfields Expressway is intended to open up a backward and isolated area. Travel times in this area are much longer than elsewhere in the Appalachian Mountains due to the lack of high-quality and fast roads. The counties through which the Coalfields Expressway passes are in severe poverty and experiencing a sharply declining population.
Planning for the Coalfields Expressway began in 1995 when the route was incorporated into the National Highway System (NHS). However, it is not one of the routes of the Appalachian Development Highway System. Construction began on a section at Welch in West Virginia in 1999, but was never completed. The first section of US 121 to be completed was southwest of Beckley, where an approximately five-mile section has been in use since 2004-2005, designated as State Route 121. On October 1, 2020, an extension of 14 kilometers to Mullens opened.
The Coalfields Expressway is being constructed by the Coalfields Expressway Authority in West Virginia, and the Virginia Department of Transportation. The construction of US 121 is technically difficult because of the difficult terrain with many height differences and very narrow valleys that barely fit a village. Viaducts and excavations are necessary in many places. The cost of the Coalfields Expressway is estimated at $3.1 billion in 2021.
Construction of the Virginia portion is estimated at $5.1 billion using traditional construction methods, but with the development of coal mines, this could be reduced to $2.8 billion. Due to the high costs compared to low use, the progress of the project is minimal. The part in Virginia is about 80 kilometers long.
Progress in West Virginia is also slow. This part is approximately 85 kilometers long. Between 2022 and 2026, an 8-kilometer section was constructed at Welch. Construction began on August 1, 2022.
US 211 in Virginia
US 211 is a US Highway in the United States, located entirely in the state of Virginia. The road forms a short east-west route in the north of the state, and is a branch of US 11. The road runs from New Market to Warrenton and is 95 kilometers long.
US 211 between New Market and Luray.
US 211 begins in the town of New Market on US 11 and then heads east over Massanutten Mountain, a long north-south oriented ridge. The US 211 runs here over the 550 meter high New Market Gap. Between New Market and US 340 in Luray, the road has 2×2 lanes, except over the mountain pass, where there are 3 lanes. US 211 crosses the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, before crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains through the 750-meter-high Thornton Gap. At the mountain pass is an intersection with Skyline Drive. Further east, US 211 runs as a 2×2 divided highway through the semi-wooded hills east to Warrenton. US 211 ends here at US 15, US 17on US 29.
US 211 was one of the original US Highways of 1926 and at the time ran from New Market to Fairfax, all of Virginia. In 1929 the route was extended to Washington, DC. About 1945 the route was shortened slightly to Arlington, Virginia, and since 1980 US 211 ends in Warrenton to avoid a long double numbering with US 29. US 211 is one of the shortest US Highways.
Virtually all of US 211 has been upgraded to a 2×2 divided highway, it is the shortest route between Harrisonburg and the Washington region, cutting the detour from I-81 and I-66. The primary purpose of the doubling, however, was tourist traffic to Shenandoah National Park. Only the crossings of the mountain ridges have remained single-lane, with an additional climbing lane.
The first section to be widened was between Luray and the start of the Thornton Gap pass in 1967. Between 1968 and 1979, most of US 211 was widened to 2×2 lanes, with a diversion at Luray in 1972. 1993-1994 the section between Sperryville and Washington (Virginia) widened to 2×2 lanes.