|It is hardly surprising that research clearly shows that a new highway means much more to an area than just a ribbon of paving.
Former U.S. Secretary of
Transportation Rodney E.
Slater points to studies of Appalachian highway development and concludes, "transportation is about more than concrete, asphalt and steel." New highways in the area, he continued, are "providing opportunity for people in the region to get to jobs, to schools and to market so that they can share fully in the economic and social benefits of this nation."
West Virginia University Professor Andrew Isserman reported that a comparison of counties with and without federal Appalachian highway funding shows a dramatic difference. The counties with Appalachian Regional Commission funding show:
- 69 percent faster growth in income
- 32 percent faster growth in per capita income
- 49 percent faster growth in earnings
- 6 percent faster growth in population
The Coalfields Expressway will provide a direct four-lane link from Interstates 64 and 77 through the heart of southern Appalachia. Isserman says his research shows interstates particularly improve the economic picture in rural, isolated counties. His statistics show that, compared to counties without such interstate access, those counties grow:
- 62 percent faster in income
- 57 percent faster in earnings
- 16 percent faster in creation of private-sector jobs
- 13 percent faster in population
There is no way to quantify the exact economic impact of the Coalfields Expressway. It is logical, however, to conclude that, as southern West Virginia continues to diversify its economy, the Coalfields Expressway and the
King Coal Highway will be critical to the future prosperity of the entire region.