By Greg Jordan, Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, W.Va. – A steel and concrete span known for years in Mercer County as the bridge to nowhere became a bridge to somewhere Wednesday when a ribbon was cut and a long line of cars and trucks crossed the bridge for the first time.
Gov. Jim Justice, Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Transportation Jimmy Wriston, P.E. and other area officials celebrated the opening of a 3-mile section of the King Coal Highway stretching from Airport Road to John Nash Boulevard near the city of Bluefield. The project, costing around $68 million, is the first section of the highway to be funded through the $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity program.
The King Coal Highway is a four-lane interstate corridor that will span approximately 95 miles long running through McDowell, Mercer, Mingo, Wyoming, and Wayne counties, along or near currently existing U.S. Route 52 from U.S. 119 near Williamson to Interstate 77 in Bluefield. The project is intended to open West Virginia’s southern coalfields to economic development.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was conducted on the Christine Elmore West Bridge, a span which was known for years in Mercer County as the bridge to nowhere. A surprise appearance by Santa Claus along with snow confetti added to the holiday occasion.
“This bridge to nowhere now goes somewhere. It’s a short distance, but it’s the beginning of an economic boost with a new, safe highway in southern West Virginia,” said Randy Damron, events coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Transportation.