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Source: US State of West Virginia

Gov. Justice began this morning’s ceremony at Bluefield State College by announcing that planning and design work on the all-new Grant Street Bridge, worth an estimated $10 million in improvements, is officially underway.

“We have worked a long, long time to make this become a reality,” Gov. Justice said. “This project, when it was put on my radar, was a tough one.”

The Grant Street Bridge is a 320-foot truss bridge with an open steel grid deck and was built in 1940. It connects the East End and North Side with Princeton Avenue and the downtown area, crossing Norfolk Southern Railway tracks. 

The bridge, which was closed in June 2019 after a Division of Highways inspection classified it as “critical” in safety, has been jointly owned by the railroad company and the city for years.

“Joint ownership like that brings all kinds of obstacles,” Gov. Justice said. “I wanted to do it right away, but my biggest question was how we were going to get it through the wickets.”

Residents impacted by the closing have been forced to use a very narrow and dangerous road, which is hazardous and increases response time for emergency vehicles.

A task force of residents of the impacted area, as well as city board members and city officials, was created last year to tackle the problem. During a visit to the Mercer County airport by Gov. Justice last October, Bluefield city officials spoke about the need for a new bridge with the Governor, who said at the time: “I’m a firm believer, if our people are hurting and there’s a way to try and help, that’s what I’m going to do. That’s what I’ve always done…I’ll promise you this, and this is the honest truth, once it hits dead on my radar, I’m going to do something about it.”

“This is a typical example of how nothing lays on the Governor’s desk very long,” said West Virginia Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Jimmy Writston during today’s ceremony.

“I wanted this really bad,” Gov. Justice said today. “This situation impacts over 1,900 people, and they have to drive all over kingdom come. I didn’t know how we would do it, but I just told all our great people to stay after it and find a way, and that’s exactly what we did.”