US 52 in West Virginia

By | October 18, 2022


US 52
Get started Huntington
End bluefield
Length 186 mi
Length 299 km

  • kenova
  • Williamson
  • Roderfield
  • welch
  • bluefield


US 52 is a US Highway in the US state of West Virginia. The road forms an east-west route through the west and south of the state, from the Ohio border at Huntington through Williamson and Bluefield to the Virginia border. US 52 is 299 kilometers long.

  • ElectronicsMatter: State facts of West Virginia, covering history, geography, demography, economics, politics, and administrative division of West Virginia.

Travel directions

US 52 at Gilbert in Mingo County.

US 52 passes through 6 counties in southern and western West Virginia, including 4 counties bordering Virginia and Kentucky. Here, US 52 cuts through the Appalachian Mountains, a densely forested area with narrow, winding valleys. US 52 is therefore a winding route, largely single-lane and therefore time-consuming to drive. Due to its mountainous nature, US 52 passes through almost all places on the route.

US 52 in Ohio crosses the Ohio River at Huntington, which forms the border between the two states here. US 52 here forms the West Huntington Expressway, a short grade separated road between the bridge over the Ohio River and the connection to Interstate 64. Then I-64 and US 52 run together west for 8 kilometers to Kenova, where US 52 exits and then forms a 2×2 expressway to Tri-State Airport.

US 52 then follows the valley of the Big Sandy River, later the Tug Fork, which forms the border with Kentucky. On the other side of the river, US 23 in Kentucky runs parallel to US 52 in West Virginia for a long time. On the 110 kilometers to Williamson there are mainly small villages. This section of US 52 is mostly single-lane, but has few major elevation changes because it runs continuously through the river valley. Few important roads are crossed in this region.

Between Nolan and Williamson US 52 coincides with US 119, this part is a 2×2 divided highway over a distance of 12 kilometers. Williamson is the largest town on the route in the wider region. From here, US 52 curves east and no longer passes the Tug Fork. US 52 runs through a very hilly area with narrow valleys for a distance of 100 miles to Bluefield. No sections with 2×2 lanes have been developed on this route. No important roads are crossed in this sparsely populated region.

Bluefield is a somewhat larger town on the Virginia border. It crosses US 19 and US 460. US 52 runs on the road network of Bluefield, a place that spans several valleys. The last part of US 52 to Interstate 77 is a 2×2 divided highway that coincides with US 460. US 52 then joins I-77 through the East River Mountain Tunnel on the Virginia border. US 52 in Virginia then continues to Wytheville.

  • Fun-wiki: Brief information of the state West Virginia, covering basic history and geography as well as top cities of West Virginia.


The original US 52 shield from 1926.

US 52 was created in 1926 and at the time began in Huntington, slightly more east than the current route. In 1932 the route to Bluefield was extended. US 52 has had its current route through West Virginia since 1934 when the route was extended further to South Carolina. US 52 has been upgraded only slightly since then. A section has been upgraded at Huntington, this is called the West Huntington Expressway and opened in 1965 as a branch of I-64. In 1970 the West Huntington Bridge opened over the Ohio River, this was a toll bridge for 10 years.


It is planned to build the King Coal Highway in the future, a route to be upgraded from US 119 to I-77 at Bluefield in southwest West Virginia. This should reduce travel time by approximately 30%. The section from I-64 to US 119 is called the Tolsia Highway. Both projects together cost more than $2 billion. US 52 also coincides with planned Interstate 73 and Interstate 74 through West Virginia, but current planned upgrades do not meet Interstate Highway design requirements.

King Coal Highway

The planned route of the King Coal Highway in West Virginia.

The current route between Nolan and Bluefield is 175 kilometers long and takes almost 3 hours to drive. The King Coal Highway is planned as an entirely new connection over the mountain ridges, largely north of the existing US 52. The King Coal Highway is to be constructed as a 2×2 divided highway (but not as a freeway). The travel time reduction is estimated at more than an hour.

Progress on the King Coal Highway is extremely slow due to lack of funds. In most cases, bridges, excavations and earthmoving have been carried out over a period of more than 10 years per segment, which, with the progress of the past decades, would take hundreds of years before the road is ever completed. There is much skepticism about whether the King Coal Highway will ever be completed. From 1999 to 2019, only 14 kilometers of the planned approximately 140 kilometers have been opened over a period of 20 years, and that also with only one lane.

Earthworks were carried out north of Welch between 1999 and 2003 for a future interchange between the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway ( US 121 ). No further work has been done on this since then.

Between 2007 and 2012, a 9-mile section was constructed between Red Jacket and Mountain View in Mingo County. This part was completed with one lane, but with earthworks for a second lane. Some of the earthworks were also done east of Mountain View, which was used for a mining project. This section of the road is open to traffic to the mine only and is unpaved.

About 2001-2003, an interchange with US 52 and US 460 was constructed east of Bluefield. Around 2009 a large viaduct over the valley of the US 19 was constructed nearby. On May 2, 2019, a groundbreaking was announced to build the King Coal Highway over 6 kilometers from here to Airport Road. This part is to be opened by mid-2022, after which the interchange can be opened after almost 20 years of being unused.


The King Coal Highway is planned through one of the poorest and most isolated regions in the United States. The region has experienced significant population decline and structurally scores the lowest on many economic and social indicators. McDowell County has lost approximately 80% of its population since 1950. Mingo County has lost half of its population. The county seat is Williamson, which has lost over 70% of its population and is now little more than a small village. Efforts are being made to turn the tide with the construction of modern infrastructure, but the population has shrunk to such an extent that there is almost no traffic to justify such an investment.

Tolsia Highway

US 52 in Williamson, with coal trains.

The Tolsia Highway is actually an abbreviation of the Tug, Ohio, Levisa, Sandy Improvement Association. These are names of the rivers that US 52 parallels, the Tug Fork, Ohio River, Levisa Fork, and the Big Sandy River.

The Tolsia Highway is actually an extension of the King Coal Highway, from Nolan to Huntington and runs parallel to the border with Kentucky for a length of 106 kilometers. Like the King Coal Highway, this was planned as a 2×2 divided highway with a grade-separated connection only at important intersections. Over the years, a number of segments have actually been built, but for now, large sections of the route are unaltered due to the lack of money in West Virginia.

In 1998-2001, a short 2-kilometer stretch of US 52 south of the junction with I-64 was newly constructed with 2×2 lanes. This improved access to the Tri-State Airport. A provision has been made at the southern end for an extension with a grade-separated connection, but this has not yet been realized.

Also in 1998, Prichard’s 5-kilometer 2×2 lane bypass, which has a single grade separation, opened. In 2001 a 3 kilometer long section opened near Crum, of which only one lane is actually in use. This part also has a provision for a crossing with viaducts, but these have not yet started work.

Preparations were also made in 2002-2003 for the construction of the section between Prichard and the Tri-State Airport, but this never actually started.

Traffic intensities

Every day 5,000 vehicles drive near I-64 in Huntington, beyond that the intensities on longer routes are approximately 2,000 to 3,000 vehicles per day. In Williamson, this peaks at approximately 7,500 vehicles per day. Between Williamson and Bluefield, there are mostly around 2,500 vehicles per day. Closer to Bluefield, intensities rise to 4,000 vehicles per day, with 7,000 to 9,000 vehicles per day in the built-up area of ​​Bluefield. The connection with I-77 is driven by 6,000 vehicles per day.

US 52 in West Virginia