King Coal work continues: Christine West Bridge to intersect with Airport Road at Kee Dam

Crews work to clear the hillside that overlooks Kee Dam and Airport Road for the King Coal Highway extension from the Christine West Bridge. (Jessica Nuzzo/Bluefield Daily Telegraph)

BLUEFIELD — The King Coal Highway extension from the Christine West Bridge will intersect with Airport Road at the upper reach of Kee Dam.

Crews have now cleared the hillside that overlooks the dam and Airport Road. That intersection is about one and a half miles east of the Mercer County Airport.

Work started on the almost $60 million project on May 1, immediately after Gov. Jim Justice visited the county to make the announcement of dirt moving on the project.

Crews with the contractor, Kanawha Stone of Nitro, first worked clearing the Bull Tail Hollow area.

Representatives of Kanawha Stone held a public meeting on the project last month, explaining to residents impacted by the work the details of the project.

James Self, superintendent of Kanawha Stone, said part of Bull Tail Hollow Road was set for closure and people living in the vicinity of Nutmeg Lane, which is off Bull Tail Hollow Road, would take a new route. There will be warning and detour signs to alert motorists.

“If you live up Nutmeg, the impact for that is it’s going to be closed and you’re going to have to go out and come out to Airport Road now,” he said. “That will be to a time frame of approximately November of this year. We will do the work all down through that area and then Nutmeg will be coming out onto Bull Tail Hollow and you’ll be able to go out the way you’ve always come out.”

Heavy equipment will be operating at the site, he said, and the large trucks that are used to hauling create a safety hazard.

“The reason why we’re doing that is for the safety of the traveling public. We’re were going be hauling with big trucks that haul 100 tons at a time. If something would happen where we’re coming across there with one of those trucks, if anybody would happen to miss our flagger or anything like that, you could get run over by one of those trucks. So we don’t want any accidents or anything happening out there. And then on top of that, we’re going to be building a bridge over top of Bull Tail Hollow, so you have the problem of something falling off the bridge and things of that nature when you’re driving through. That is the reason for closing the road down.”

Blasting at the work site is scheduled to begin by July 1. A pre-blast survey was done with homes in the area, Self added.

“It will be a controlled blast,” he said. “You’re not going to feel hardly anything. You’re not going to be seeing a lot.” He added that air blasts from the explosions “might rattle windows a little and not harm anything.”

Jim Ratliff, blast superintendent for Kanawha Stone, said there would be siren warnings before each blast. First, sirens will be sounded for three long bursts three minutes before a blast. Next, there will be three short bursts one minute before a blast. A single 20-second siren will be sounded for the all clear.

Blasting will be done only during the hours between sunup and sundown, and only one or two blasts a day will be done, Ratliff stated.

Self said the company’s employees will be doing hauling work during the night.

The project will connect Airport Road with Rt. 460 and Interstate 77, going 3.8 miles and providing access to Rt. 52, the Brushfork and Bluewell areas, and McDowell County, bypassing Bluefield.

Kanawha Stone’s target date for completing its work is November 2020, Self said. The state’s estimated completion date for the highway extension is November 2021.

— Contact Charles Boothe at

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