BLUEFIELD — Work on an ongoing highway project’s second bridge is now underway, gradually moving it closer to a fall 2021 competition date when the new motorway will carry traffic from U.S. Route 460 to the Airport Road area of Mercer County.
The growing structure of a second bridge for a section of the King Coal Highway is becoming visible. The bridge, going over the Bull Tail Hollow Road area, will carry traffic along with a bridge being constructed in the Kee Lake Dam area from Route 460 to Route 123, also known as Airport Road.
“Both have been under different levels of construction, but will be under construction simultaneously,” according to Joe Pack, district engineer and manager of District 10 of the state Department of Highways.
The project’s contract has a projected completion date of Oct. 31, he said.
“That is our current schedule. There are different phases like anything you do,” Pack said. “We plan on having traffic on it this fall, yes.”
County Commissioner Greg Puckett said he has been watching the highway project.
“Right now we’ve waited for 15 to 20 years to get it going, so seeing any updates is exciting,” he stated. “Even though the King Coal Highway Authority has been dissolved, members of the coalition still talk now and then about its progress. It’s a process where I’m honored to have been on the authority, and to see that progress is so reassuring so southern West Virginia will be open for business.”
The new highway will help expand possibilities for what the Mercer County Airport could do for business in the future, he stated.
“That’s the whole point,” Puckett said. “Any time you invest in infrastructure, it’s a step forward for economic development.”
Along with U.S. Route 52, Airport Road takes ATV tourists from out of state to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail. For visitors who are unfamiliar with Mercer County, a direct route will help them get to their destination more easily, according to Jamie Null, executive director of the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“Any time you can provide a more convenient point of access to a destination, then you’re meeting the needs for the visitor,” Null said. “You want to make sure they have a convenient way to get to the trail system so they will return.”
A lot of first-time visitors are unfamiliar with West Virginia’s curving roadways. By making it easier for them to find their way, they are more likely to return, Null said, adding that first impressions start on the way to a destination.
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org