RALEIGH COUNTY, WV (WVNS) — Streetlights will not be added to a nearby stretch of the Coalfields Expressway despite pleas from residents.
Residents have reported a higher number of accidents, however, the West Virginia Department of Transportation has no plans to place lights along the stretch of Coalfields Expressway between Crab Orchard and Mullens, a state official said Tuesday, January 10, 2023.
West Virginia Deputy Highway Engineer Greg Bailey said the expressway will only receive lighting in “urban” areas. He said there is some lighting at Crab Orchard but there are no plans to increase lighting on the rest of the highway.
There are currently no lights on that portion of the highway.
Since 2006, the West Virginia Department of Transportation has recognized the Coalfields Expressway as a generator of economic growth for southern West Virginia and an important connecting route between Wyoming, McDowell and the fast-growing Raleigh counties.
The Coalfields Expressway will one day connect The West Virginia Turnpike to Grundy, Virginia.
The West Virginia Department of Transportation website reports it is a mountainous highway, full of curves and turns. Signate indicates a five percent grade.
That translates to a higher number of motor vehicle accidents, WVDOT officials report on the website.
Many who live in the Slab Fork area, including Jenny Waycaster of Hotchkiss, know the risk firsthand.
Waycaster said on Monday, January 9, 2023, that she was driving the highway one night when another menace to West Virginia motorists, a deer, jumped in front of her sedan. She said finding a place to stop on the mountain was difficult, due to no lighting along the sloping terrain.
“No one would stop, you know, that was behind me,” she recalled. “I came all the way down that dark hill and pulled over. When I go to the bottom to go through Slab Fork, I pull over, pitch dark, to see if I have part of that deer on my car with me.”
At the intersection of Slab Fork, there are no traffic lights.
The road abruptly ends at Mullens, with no flashing caution lights. There is a speed change and signage warning motorists the road ends.
Raleigh County Commission President Dave Tolliver has family in Wyoming County. He said he travels the highway, frequently.
“I agree, down there as you get off at Slab Fork, it would really be beneficial [to have lights],” he said. “There has been some wrecks down at the interchange with Slab Fork where lights would be beneficial.”
But he said the road, which is a state highway, will get lights only when the State Division of Highways installs them.
Until then, drivers must use caution when they’re traveling the Coalfields Expressway.
Waycaster said the plan puts residents in Slab Fork and Hotchkiss, along with other motorists, at risk.
“I mean, they’ve had wrecks on it,” she said. “Why, if something happens, you don’t have a place to pull off. Nowhere. No street lights. It’s not safe for anybody.”