GRUNDY, VA – OCTOBER 6, 2020 — The first meeting of the Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority was held Tuesday in Grundy at the new Southern Gap Transportation and Logistics Center.
The authority was created by the General Assembly in 2017, but all of its members had not been appointed until last month at which time Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority (VCEDA) Executive Director/General Counsel Jonathan Belcher contacted the members to set up the initial meeting of the authority. Under the Code of Virginia, VCEDA is charged with providing staffing assistance to the authority. Appointments to it are made by the Speaker of the House of Delegates and the Senate Rules Committee. Three members are ex-officio and are appointed by virtue of their elected status in the three counties.
At Tuesday’s meeting Jay Rife of Buchanan County was elected the first chairman of the Coalfields Expressway Authority and Mike Yates, of Dickenson County, was named vice chairman. Additional members of the Authority include James Keen and Ed Talbott, both of Buchanan County; Donald Baker and Scott Mullins, both of Dickenson County; and Jack Kennedy, J.H. Rivers and Melanie Salyer, all of Wise County. Ex-officio members include Craig Stiltner, of Buchanan County; Josh Evans, of Dickenson County; and John Schoolcraft, of Wise County. Belcher was designated as the executive director and secretary/treasurer of the authority. Kennedy was not in attendance, however, Bonnie Bates attended on his behalf.
Board members heard a presentation from Belcher on the statute creating the authority. They also heard from Marty Halloway with the Virginia Department of Transportation, on the current status of the Coalfields Expressway (CFX) build. The Coalfields Expressway, designated as U.S. Route 121, is also designated as a Congressional High Priority Corridor.
Additionally, the authority agreed to consider bylaws and to meet again in December to consider those.
The primary purpose of the CFX Authority is to improve transportation into, from, within and through Southwest Virginia, assist in regional economic development and generally enhance highway safety in the affected localities of Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise.
Under the code of Virginia, the authority has a total membership of 12 members, including nine non-legislative citizen members and three ex officio members. Six of the non-legislative citizen members are appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates — two each from Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise counties. Three members are appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules, including one each from Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise counties. The chairmen of the boards of supervisors of Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise counties, or their designees, serve as ex officio members with voting privileges.
The authority will work with counties, municipalities, state and federal agencies, public nonprofit corporations, private corporations, associations, partnerships and individuals for the purpose of planning, assisting and establishing recreational, tourism, industrial, economic and community development of the proposed Coalfields Expressway for the benefit of the Commonwealth.
It is also authorized to work with surrounding states in developing the Coalfields Expressway in the Commonwealth, in an effort to link Interstates 64 and 77 in West Virginia with Route 23 in Virginia, which links to interstates in Kentucky and Tennessee.
About Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority and Southwest Virginia’s e-Region: The Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 1988 to enhance and diversify the region’s economy and help create jobs, markets Southwest Virginia’s e-Region and its focus on electronic information technology, energy, education, emerging technologies, and entrepreneurship. VCEDA is a unique economic development organization that manages funds for economic development projects from a percentage of the coal and natural gas severance taxes paid by coal and natural gas companies that operate in the region. Located in southwestern Virginia, the region includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Tazewell, and Wise counties and the City of Norton. www.vceda.us or www.e-Region.org.
About Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority: The Virginia Coalfields Expressway Authority, created by the Virginia General Assembly in 2017, was established to improve transportation into, from, within and through Southwest Virginia, assist in regional economic development and generally enhance highway safety in the affected localities of Buchanan, Dickenson and Wise. The authority also works with surrounding states in developing the Coalfields Expressway in the Commonwealth, in an effort to link Interstates 64 and 77 in West Virginia with Route 23 in Virginia, which links to interstates in Kentucky and Tennessee.