More transportation options will soon be available for residents living in rural parts of McDowell County. Beginning in June, the Bluefield Area Transit will start serving communities in the southwestern part of McDowell County. This includes the Coalwood, Bradshaw and Roderfield communities.

That’s in addition to the city of Welch, which is already served by the BAT system.

This will allow the transit system to get additional families to the doctor, grocery store and other regional destinations in both McDowell and Mercer counties.

“It will start at Welch and go to Coalwood, Bradshaw, Roderfield and back to Welch,” John Reeves, general manager of the Bluefield Area Transit, said of the new McDowell County route. “We already have two full-times down there and one that connects Bluefield with Welch.”

Reeves said the addition of the new route will help cover most of McDowell County. It is expected to begin on June 13.

The McDowell County Commission and the McDowell County Economic Development Authority were involved in the formation of the new routing, and are providing funding to assist with the effort, according to Reeves.

“I have been getting a lot of comments about this,” Reeves said of the new bus route. “There is a lot of interest in it. I think it will work out good.”

Bluefield City Manager Cecil Marson also is applauding the expansion, which will enable more residents of McDowell County without immediate access to transportation to shop and eat in Bluefield.

About 225,000 riders — with 15,000 of them disabled — use the Bluefield Area Transit buses annually. That number will now likely grow with the addition of the new McDowell County route.

The transit system, a critical asset to our region, has been growing steadily in recent years.

It expanded in 2002 to include non-emergency medical transportation, and expanded service to McDowell County in 2003. In 2010, the transit system was honored for being the most cost efficient rural system in West Virginia. To date the BAT system has received more than 100 awards ranging from greatest passenger increase and best safety program to best maintenance program and driver of the year honors.

Last year, the new $2.7 million Larlyn Patrick McKinney Bluefield Area Transit Regional Transfer Station opened on Bluefield Avenue here in Bluefield, providing riders of the transit system with a secure indoor facility to transfer buses.

Many people in the region use the BAT system to go shopping, visit the doctor and attend social functions. For others, the transit system allows them to get out of the house and visit others.

It is a true blessing for many in our area, particularly during these difficult economic times.

We believe the new route will be an asset to families in the Coalwood, Bradshaw, Roderfield and Welch communities. And we urge citizens in these communities to take advantage of this new service.

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