For the past four years, the tallest bridge in the state has stood along the Kentucky border unconnected to any open roadways on either side.
Some see it as a prime example of the politicization and mismanagement of transportation funding that led to the development of SmartScale, the state’s new point-based scoring system for road projects. Others see the slow pace of work as just another example of Richmond neglecting the needs of Appalachia.
In either case, an end to the bridge’s isolation is now in sight. With the completion of a road on the Kentucky side and work once again funded and under way in Virginia, it’s scheduled to officially open to the public next year, and, unofficially, people are already driving across it, though authorities on both sides say they could be cited for trespassing.
The concrete, four-lane bridge spans Grassy Creek in Buchanan County. It stands 250-feet tall, making it the tallest in the state by about 75 feet. Construction began in 2011 and, in 2017 it was named a “bridge of excellence” by the American Segmental Bridge Institute.
The project is an offshoot of the long-discussed Coalfields Expressway, which would connect the state’s rural southwestern counties to West Virginia and Kentucky with the goal of stimulating economic development by opening Appalachia up to more industry and tourism
The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.