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Rep. Jenkins: Federal highway money is coming but Charleston decides allocation

By GREG JORDAN

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, W.Va.  — A Mercer County structure dubbed “The Bridge to Nowhere” could finally become a link to somewhere if federal highway dollars coming to West Virginia are applied to the project, one of the state’s congressional representatives said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., stopped at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph after attending a jobs fair at the nearby Bluefield Auditorium. During his visit, Jenkins was asked about the Christine West Bridge, also known as the Bridge to Nowhere, a span near U.S. Route 460 outside Bluefield. It stands between unfinished sections of Interstate 73/74, the King Coal Highway.

U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins

Jenkins said federal highway money is coming to West Virginia. The decision about whether these funds will be spent on the routes including the Christine West Bridge will be made by state officials.

“The Bridge to Nowhere is simply unacceptable, and that’s why I’m proud of the fact that we passed in Congress the first fully-funded highway transportation bill that is bringing over $2 billion in road funds just to West Virginia,” Jenkins said. “It’s $2.5 billion in federal highway dollars to West Virginia. That’s money that can be put towards the King Coal Highway, it can be put towards the bridge to nowhere and getting that connector finished.”

“My role was to get as much money as possible to West Virginia, and we have brought more money for highways than ever before,” he stated. “And now, under the way the system works, it’s really the governor’s office and the department of transportation in West Virginia that decides how to allocate that money to what part of the state.”

The hope now is the state’s southern counties will benefit from highway construction. 

“I think we have critical needs in southern West Virginia. You know, West Virginia does not stop in Raleigh County. Southern West Virginia has important needs that need to be addressed,” Jenkins said. “The department of transportation under the governor’s direction plays a critical role on where and how they spend those billions of dollars.”

Jenkins said he has been encouraging the region’s legislators to promote the project. The Bridge to Nowhere should be addressed “right off the bat.”

“Right after we passed this bill in Washington, I actually wrote a letter to all of our state legislators and actually held events here in Mercer County pointing out the fact that this money is coming to West Virginia and we all need to raise our collective voices here to make sure we get our fair share,” he stated. 

The Bridge to Nowhere is a powerful symbol not only of a job that wasn’t finished, but of the opportunities that will be offered if the project is completed. Jobs will follow roads, Jenkins said.

“I am cautiously optimistic that in Charleston they have now put this as a priority,” he said. “We secured the funding, now they need to make it a priority.”

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