Briana Heaney Published

No Longer ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’: Ribbon Cutting Opens New Section Of King Coal Highway

People stand on bridge with white confetti around them.
Gov. Jim Justice held a ribbon cutting event at the bridge and gave a short speech before joining a caravan of cars to drive across the bridge and down the highway for the first time.
Briana Heaney/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Gov. Jim Justice held a ribbon cutting ceremony at the previously constructed Christine Elmore West Bridge, located near Bluefield. The bridge was commonly called ‘the bridge to nowhere’, because the road ended with the bridge. Now as part of a $2.8 billion Roads to Prosperity program, the King Coal Highway extends past the bridge for three miles. The newly completed stretch of highway connects Airport Road to John Nash Boulevard near Bluefield. 

Randy Damron, events coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Transportation (WVDOT), said this bridge is the beginning of an economic boost for southern West Virginia. 

“This bridge to nowhere, now goes somewhere,” Damron said. 

Damron said the three top Justice priorities for the WVDOT, have been the King Coal Highway, the Coalfields expressway, and the Appalachian Corridor H. King Coal Highway, and the Coalfields expressway both go through southern West Virginia. The King Coal Highway is planned to pass through Mingo, Wyoming, McDowell, and Mercer counties.

Classic cars drive across a bridge.
Gov. Justice invited classic car clubs to be some of the first cars to cross the new bridge and drive down the new highway.

Briana Heaney/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Justice said this highway, once completed, will connect many areas of southern West Virginia to surrounding areas and shave off hours of transit time.

“This is your bridge to so much economic development and prosperity,” Justice said. “I hate to say it, but in many, many, many ways. We ran off and left southern West Virginia — well, that’s not going to happen on my watch.” 

Noah Staker lives in Princeton, and worked on the crew that built the connecting stretch of the King Coal Highway. He said that this bridge has gone nowhere since he was a kid. He said so much of the towns in Southern W.Va. are only accessible by winding backroads. Staker said the investment in this roadway will help tie southern communities together, and connect communities with safer, straighter roads. 

“The thing is, it’s just a tough state to drive through naturally,” Staker said. “So the more straight line you can get, it will just allow people to get somewhere in 30 minutes versus an hour. That’s a big deal, gets people out and moving and traveling.”

The roads were funded through tax revenue and bonds. The economic impact of the construction was $7.5 million dollars in paychecks to West Virginians, $23 million to contractors, and $4 million in induced revenue to local business.