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End of US highway 121

View a map showing this route.

Photo credits: H.B. Elkins, Alex Nitzman

Approx. time period North terminus South terminus
(unbuilt, but commissioned in 2005) Beckley, WV Pound, VA

The first US 121 was among the original routes of 1926, but it lasted only until 1934 - you can read more about it on this page.

70 years later, the US 121 designation was recycled, when it was requested by the states of Virginia and West Virginia. AASHTO approved the designation in 2005, despite the fact that none of the highway had been built at the time, and despite the fact that it does not connect with US 21 (US x19 would've been a more appropriate number). The highway is intended to run for about 60 miles through some economically-depressed areas in the two states.

Better known locally as the Coalfields Expressway (or CFX), the vast majority of US 121 is still in the planning stage, and honestly I'm not convinced that it will ever be completed. Many people are opposed for various reasons, such as its impact to the environment, its cost of construction, and the perceived lack of return on investment. Some coal companies have floated the idea of helping with the expense by offering to clear-cut the corridor and mine the underlying coal, leaving behind a roadbed ready for paving. However, their offer is contingent upon aligning the highway through areas that would yield the most coal, so you can see where there is the potential for a conflict of interest. And now that the coal industry is experiencing its own downturn, construction seems to have stalled. So if this highway is ever completed, I don't think that will happen for quite some time.

There is a 4.5 mile standalone section near the northern terminus in Beckley that is open to traffic. However, entrances to this segment are not signed as US 121, but simply as "Local traffic only". The road itself has been signposted as WV 121:

Elkins, July 2008

There's another one heading the opposite direction:

Elkins, July 2008

I imagine the road can't be signed as US 121 until it's more substantially complete. Continuing north, WV 121 merges with WV 16/97, which connects with I-64/77. The WV 97 designation ends at that interchange...

Elkins, July 2008

...and it's possible that junction will serve as a temporary north end of US 121 in the future. However, my understanding is the ultimate plan is to tie US 121 into the interchange where I-64 and I-77 split, just south of Beckley. Below is a photo taken from westbound I-64:

Nitzman, June 2005

This is essentially a "T" junction: I-77 runs left and right across the photo, and I-64 joins northbound I-77 to the right. I believe the plan is to make this a 4-way interchange, with US 121 beginning straight ahead, and joining with the existing segment near Sophia.

At the south end, US 121 is planned to end at US 23 near Pound, VA. From what I've seen, it looks like the highway will tie in to the north of town, right about where VA 630 currently connects with US 23:

Google Maps Street View, 2008

That's looking north on US 23, which curves off to the left. To the right is VA 630, which curves down the valley to the right. This may be right about where US 121 will connect. Heading that direction, it will probably be signed "north", even though it's actually more "east". So when the road is complete, you will be able to go east from Virginia in order to get to West Virginia.