(Rick Hampson, USA Today) – In southern West Virginia, they call this The Highway That Time Forgot, a 100-mile, two-lane stretch of stomach-churning switchbacks and careening coal trucks, clogged by stop-and-start school buses, slow-driving seniors, and the random pedestrian.
Infamous are its ear-popping ascents and declines; its oscillating speed limits and paucity of passing zones; its (by one count) 333 substandard curves. Rock ledges tower over the road, and sometimes boulders fall on it.
That Route 52 is the best east-west connection through the coalfields — two entire counties have not an inch of four-lane — testifies to how badly the area needs the 65-mph, limited-access divided highways that the rest of America takes for granted.
President Trump has famously promised to “bring back coal’’ and put miners back to work. But he’s also who’s promised $1 trillion for infrastructure. At the Republican National Convention, on election night, in his inaugural address and last week in his first speech to Congress, the New York developer has vowed to build highways.
To Trump supporters here, his infrastructure promises are as important as his coal promises. Highways, in fact, are seen as deliverance from coal’s economic tyranny.
“If we could get highways in here, we wouldn’t have to depend on coal,’’ says Ray Bailey, the assessor in McDowell County, where Trump got 74% of the vote. He’s tacitly admitting that while Trump may be unable to revive an industry that has been declining for decades, he can at least build some roads.