Charleston, WV - House Bill 4239, which was sponsored by Delegate Justin Marcum (D-20th District), passed the House of Delegates on March 2, 2016. The bill was introduced by Delegate Marcum in an attempt to bring jobs to southern West Virginia. Kentucky Speaker Greg Stumbo and Rep. Chris Harris are working on similar legislation in the Kentucky Legislature.
House Bill 4239 relates to the construction of a modern highway expansion of the Mountain Parkway in Kentucky from Mingo County, West Virginia to Mercer and Raleigh County. The project will complete a four-lane, high-speed route across the length of the state going west to east from the eastern Kentucky border with Mingo County into Mercer, Wayne, and Raleigh County West Virginia. The highway will open up a direct route from southern West Virginia to Lexington, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Ohio, Charlotte, North Carolina, and points in between.
Delegate Marcum said House Bill 4239 is the beginning of the project and without the bill it will be impossible for the project to be completed.
"The bill is vital to the continuation of the King Coal Highway, Coalfields Expressway, and to the diversification of our economy,” Marcum said. “With this road, we can put coal miners back to work.”
The legislation requires the Commissioner of Highways to conduct a study and develop a highway project plan to extend the Mountain Parkway Expansion into West Virginia. Marcum believes it will improve the economy of the Appalachian region.
"Growth and productivity will come to the region by improving our infrastructure and building this road," stated Marcum.
House Bill 4239 would require the Commissioner to determine the best routes available and the various methods of road construction best adapted to the area. The bill would require the Commissioner to hold public hearings, determine the cost of the project, investigate and determine how the federal Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act can be used to fund the project and to make quarterly reports to the legislature.
Marcum has been working on this project since June 2015 with Speaker Stumbo and Rep. Chris Harris. Congressman Hal Rogers, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Congressman Evan Jenkins, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, and many others have issued support for the idea.
The KY/WV Interstate Project is vital to bringing jobs to southern West Virginia.
"I understand the completion is years down the road, but that this is the initial stage to get the project started," Marcum said. “The bill will allow us to put laid off coal miners back to work.”
“Let's be clear we need coal jobs and I'll always fight for coal miners but this bill will allow us another tool in the toolbox to diversify our local economy," Marcum added.
Delegate Rupie Phillips (D-24th District) stated "the bill is an important piece of the puzzle to bring some life back to southern West Virginia. The better infrastructure will gain us access to post-mine land use for diversification of our economy."
Delegate Ricky Moye (D-29th District) believes the Bill is vital to southern West Virginia. "Anything we can do to open up rural West Virginia with improved infrastructure will provide jobs and other forms of economic development."
Delegate John O'Neal (R-28th District) who is a co-sponsor of the bill and majority whip in the House is a huge proponent of the bill. He stated that this legislation "is a must have" for the local economies of southern West Virginia."
House Bill 4239 was co-sponsored Marcum, R. Phillips, John O'Neal, Mick Bates, L. Arvon, M. Gearheart, John Shott, R. Cooper, Phyllis White, J. Ellington, and R. Moye. The bill passed the House 98-1. The Senate has a companion bill that is also running through the legislative process.