There was a presentation followed by a question and answer session that explained why the South Fork Coal Company wants to include part of the Briery Knob Road as a coal road, which means it will be maintained for trucks carrying 120,000 lbs. Since Allen Johnson and I were the only public citizens who showed up, we had plenty of time and attention from the 20 to 25 people from the coal company, the CRTS committee and the Department of Highways to answer our questions.
The answer to why they want to use the Briery Knob Road is that there is a private haul road connecting it to the Cold Mountain Road that is not shown on maps. The alternative would be to go out the Bear Run Road to Rt 39, and then to Richwood and beyond, but there are 4 bridges on Rt 39 that would have to be rebuilt to handle 120,000 lb trucks at a cost of many millions of dollars. The bridges already handle 80,000 lb trucks, which is all that is legal on regular roads and highways, but the financial advantage of fewer trips makes the alternative of using the private haul road, which has no bridges, the preferred choice (for the coal company). It is also the road that provides access to the Beech Ridge Wind Farm.
The coal that will be hauled on this route will come from two deep mines near the big strip mine that was active a few years ago and visible from the confluence of the Bear Run Road and the Briery Knob Road. The mining will not start for a year or more. The South Fork Coal Company is working on strip mine permits they already have on Manning Knob and Lost Flats, which happens to be near Bob Henry Baber’s home.
During the public comment period, I testified that the section of Briery Knob Road that will become a coal road runs next to the Fork Mountain Trail where it comes up from Hills Creek Falls, and the traffic noise will be audible in the Hills Creek canyon, which is a pristine recreational area, so an alternative would be preferable.
Allen testified that a report from Downstream Strategies demonstrated how the CRTS program still allows costs from the heavy weight trucks to fall on the taxpayer.