U.S. Route 121

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U.S. Route 121 marker

U.S. Route 121
Coalfields Expressway
Route information
Length108.35 mi (174.37 km)
Major junctions
South end US 23 in Pound, VA
North end I‑64 / I‑77 near Beckley, WV
StatesVirginia, West Virginia
Highway system
SR 120VASR 121
US 119WVWV 122

U.S. Route 121 (US 121) is a proposed highway designated as the Coalfields Expressway, a four-lane highway stretching from Beckley, West Virginia to Pound, Virginia, approximately 108 miles (174 km) in length. It is designed to connect Interstate 77/Interstate 64 in West Virginia near Beckley to U.S. Route 23 in Wise County, Virginia at Pound.

While US 121 will not connect directly to U.S. Route 21, it will intersect at the latter road's original alignment, now a part of I-77.


The Coalfields Expressway interchange with WV 54 under construction in 2004 near Sophia, West Virginia.

The Coalfields Expressway will depart from U.S. 23 in Pound, Virginia, in Wise County, and roughly follow Virginia State Route 83 in Buchanan County to West Virginia Route 83 in McDowell County, West Virginia. Then it will travel northeast through depressed areas of West Virginia, paralleling West Virginia Route 16 through Wyoming and Raleigh counties. It will then run toward an expanded Interstate 64/Interstate 77 interchange near Beckley. The roadways US 121 will replace are deficient in the fact that the existing roadways have limited passing opportunities, steep grades, and low design speeds.

As of June 2013, 6.9 miles (11.1 km) of US 121 is open to traffic in West Virginia, currently signed as West Virginia Route 121 (WV 121).


In Virginia, the Coalfields Expressway will run for 49.25 miles (79.26 km), following Virginia Route 83 from the West Virginia border to U.S. Highway 23 in Pound. Near the Grundy - Vansant area, U.S. Route 460 will become a new four-lane highway connecting the Coalfields Expressway with Breaks Interstate Park at the Virginia / Kentucky border and Elkhorn City, Kentucky.

West Virginia[edit]

View north along WV 121 at CR 34 (Slab Fork Road) in Slab Fork

Construction started in 1999 with a three-level diamond interchange near Welch in western West Virginia. This will facilate traffic going between the King Coal Highway/Interstate 73/Interstate 74 and the Coalfields Expressway (US 121). Grading work was completed in 2003, but the interchange remains incomplete as of 2018.

Further eastward, work is continuing on a segment of the Expressway in the vicinity of Sophia and Crab Orchard near Beckley totaling 3.5 miles (5.6 km). Grading and preliminary paving operations have been completed, as well as the gradings and bridge construction for a diamond interchange for West Virginia Route 54 and a bridge over West Virginia Route 16. In November 2004, a contract was awarded for paving operations at a cost of $11.5 million from Surveyor Creek Road to the West Virginia Route 16 interchange. With this segment of the Expressway completed, a new tie-in will be complete from Surveyor Creek Road to five-lane West Virginia Route 16, as well as an interchange with West Virginia Route 54.

Two contracts totaling $22.2 million are currently under construction. One projects involves grading and drainage operations on 2.57 miles (4.14 km) of US 121 from Big Ridge to Surveyor Creek Road that involves nearly five million cubic yards (3,800,000 m3) of excavation.

In the fall of 2013, two contracts will be awarded to grade and drain an additional two miles (3.2 km) of US 121 near Helen. It is one of four projects on the horizon to extend the road to Mullens.[1]

Following the election of Governor Jim Justice in 2016, the newly elected Governor began aggressively pushing for the highway's completion.[2] Governor Justice requested $54.4 million for grading in Wyoming County. The construction would be financed through raising taxes.[3] In an upcoming ballot issue to approve of road bonds, Governor Justice allocated $55 million to extend the road from Slab Fork to Mullens and eventually to Welch.[4] The ballot issue passed.[5]

Major intersections[edit]

Mileposts are approximate.

VirginiaWisePound0.000.00 US 23 (Orby Cantrell Highway)Proposed southern terminus
Dickenson6.810.9 SR 721Proposed junction
22.4536.13 SR 80Proposed junction
Buchanan27.7544.66 US 460 westProposed interchange at new US 460 alignment; south end of US 460 concurrency
29.7547.88 SR 614Proposed junction
US 460 eastProposed north end of US 460 concurrency
44.2571.21 SR 643 (Hurley Road)Proposed junction
SR 83 westProposed south end of SR 83 concurrency
VirginiaWest Virginia lineBuchananMcDowell county line49.25
SR 83 end / WV 83 beginProposed junction
West VirginiaMcDowellBradshaw7.011.3 WV 80 northProposed junction
WV 83 eastProposed north end of WV 83 concurrency
Welch21.033.8 US 52Proposed junction
Wyoming27.043.5 WV 16Proposed interchange
Pineville35.056.3 WV 10Proposed junction
42.568.4 WV 54Proposed junction
Raleigh48.678.2 CR 34 south (Slab Fork Road)Temporary southern end
WV 54 south to WV 16 south – Sophia, MullensInterchange
Sophia55.589.3 WV 16 north (Robert C. Byrd Drive) – BeckleyInterchange; temporary northern end
59.195.1 I‑64 / I‑77 (West Virginia Turnpike)Proposed northern terminus; interchange
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
  •       Unopened

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Coalfields Expressway project moving forward". 9 June 2013.
  2. ^ Schmitz, Ali (19 February 2017). "Justice launches Save Our State Tour in Raleigh County". Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  3. ^ Lannom, Andrea (9 February 2017). "Justice: $450 million tax hike". The Register-Herald. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  4. ^ Moore, Annie (5 September 2017). "W.Va. Governor adds 55 million for Coalfields Expressway in upcoming bond election". WVVA-TV. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  5. ^ Stuck, Taylor (8 October 2017). "Voters approve WV road bond". The Herald-Dispatch. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  6. ^ "Route 121 Coalfields Expressway". Virginia Department of Transportation. VDOT. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  7. ^ "Coalfields Expressway (Preferred Alternative)". West Virginia Department of Transportation. State of West Virginia. 31 December 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2017.

External links[edit]