Linking a highway bridge going nowhere to an actual destination, repaving secondary roads and replacing some bridges are among the topics county officials discussed Monday with the West Virginia Department of Transportation.
Representatives of the state Department of Transportation spoke to officials from Mercer, McDowell, Raleigh and Wyoming Counties at the Division of Highways District 10 Headquarters near Princeton. Gov. Jim Justice asked Secretary of Labor Tom Smith to meet with every county in the state to discuss the governor's Roads to Prosperity program and share the process of how projects are chosen and how dollars are distributed, according to a WVDOT release. Deputy Secretary Jill Newman and State Highway Engineer Aaron Gillespie also attended the meeting.
Mercer County Commission President Gene Buckner attended the meeting. One topic which came up was the Christine West Bridge near the intersection of U.S. Route 52 and Princeton Avenue near Bluefield. For years, getting the span, often called the Bridge to Nowhere, connected to the future King Coal Highway has been a goal of the county commission and the highway's local supporters.
During Monday's meeting, WVDOT officials said there are now plans to connect the bridge to Route 123, also known as Airport Road.
"They said it could be early spring of 2019," Buckner said.
Besides connecting the bridge to a county route and creating a new roadway, the stone and soil moved while building the extension could benefit Mercer County's transportation infrastructure in another way, he added. This possibility would involve taking the excess dirt and using it to extend the Mercer County Airport's runway by 2,000 feet.
Funding for the Roads to Prosperity is also being used to pay for paving secondary roads. County Commissioner Bill Archer said various repaving projects are taking place across the county. The ongoing Interstate 77 project, which is repaving the interstate highway from Bluefield to Princeton, was discussed, too. A detour taking northbound tractor-trailers off I-77 at Exit 1 and onto Route 460 where they travel to Princeton and return to the highway at Exit 9. The current plan calls for starting on southbound paving when August arrives.
"We talked to the new District 10 manager, Dave Harper," Archer said. "It was a very good conversation with the officials attending."
Learning that the bridge would be connected to Route 123 was "good news," he stated.
In May, West Virginia sold two competitive offerings of general obligation bonds totaling $632.4 million. Citigroup won the $330.345 million of Series 2018B state road bonds while Bank of America Merrill Lynch won the $302.055 million of Series 2018B state road bonds, The deals are rated Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service, AA-minus by S&P Global Ratings and AA by Fitch Ratings.
Archer also mentioned possible projects such as a bridge at Low Water Road and Route 19 near Spanishburg. He said he was also glad to hear that one repaving project was being delayed so a town's water project could be completed.
"I also expressed my thanks for delaying the repaving project on Route 10 while West Virginia American Water completes the permanent waterline to Matoaka," Archer stated. "They've got a pretty tight schedule to get it done. The DOH had planned to start earlier this year, but they agreed to delay until Dec. 20."
In May, the town's citizens voted to disincorporate after more than 100 years as an incorporated municipality. Problems with the town's aging water treatment plant was among the reasons for the citizens' decision. Work is underway to connect the town to another water source.