Gov. Justice announces construction of brand-new Grant Street Bridge and return of college football in Bluefield; awards over $389,000 in TARTP grants

10/29/2020

Governor also announces Bluefield State College will field an athletics program for first time in more than four decades

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BLUEFIELD, WV – On a milestone day of growth for the City of Bluefield, WV, Bluefield State College, and the entire Southern Coalfields region of West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice announced today that a brand-new Grant Street Bridge will be built to enhance access and safety for local residents, that Bluefield State College will field an athletics program – including a football team – for the first time in over four decades, and also awarded over $389,000 in Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program grants for several projects in cities and towns all across West Virginia’s Southern Coalfields.

“Today is a really important day, a feel-good day for Bluefield and all of southern West Virginia,” Gov. Justice said. “Our whole state was dealt a cannonball to the stomach with this pandemic, especially our Southern Coalfields, but the rebirth that’s going on here is unbelievable. 

“Southern West Virginia is where I grew up, I owe everything to this area,” Gov. Justice continued. “Really and truly, from the bottom of my heart, I’m so proud and I’m so thankful for this great day.”
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NEW GRANT STREET BRIDGE BEING BUILT
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.”
Northfolk Southern railroad will relinquish ownership and responsibility to the City of Bluefield and provide part of matching funds to Bluefield.

The West Virginia Division of Highways will manage the project, which is scheduled for work to begin early next year.

Northfolk Southern will provide access and flagging for construction. The City of Bluefield will assume ownership and all maintenance responsibilities.

“We’ll have cleaned it all up and we’ll have a brand-new bridge to where we won’t have to go all around the hills just to get across town,” Gov. Justice said.

WVDOH officials say they plan to have a design consultant selected and a notice to proceed by next week. From there, 60 days will be allotted for the project to be designed and for all contract documents and permits to be completed. WVDOH officials anticipate this project to be completed in a single construction season.

“We’re going to accelerate the construction process as much as possible and plan to have an exact completion date very soon,” Deputy Secretary Wriston said.
BLUEFIELD STATE COLLEGE ATHLETICS TO RETURN
Also during the ceremony, Gov. Justice announced that 12 intercollegiate sports programs, including a football program, will begin competing at Bluefield State College during the 2021-2022 season.

“After 41 years of absence, football is returning to Bluefield State,” Gov. Justice said. “All the stuff that everybody is doing at Bluefield State is amazing.”

The Governor announced that the football team will be coached by Super Bowl 50 champion Tony Coaxum.

“How you recruit someone so qualified to coach here is unbelievable,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s just more and more goodness for southern West Virginia.”
The Governor went on to announce that major upgrades and expansions are planned for BSC sports facilities, and that a bevy of additional talented coaches, administrators, and other staff members will be brought on to build up the new athletics program.

These developments will coincide with the 2021 opening of Heritage Village, which is set to become Bluefield State College's first on-campus student housing facility since 1968. That year, a bombing at the school resulted in the closure of BSC’s dorms. The closure eventually became permanent, leading to the institution becoming known, primarily, as a commuter school.

During a visit to campus last August, Gov. Justice pledged $1 million in funding to help build Heritage Village – Bluefield State College’s first on-campus housing complex in more than 50 years – and for additional improvement work on the college’s student union facility.

Today, the Governor also announced the establishment of an on-campus meal plan for students at BSC.

“A successful fall student enrollment at Bluefield State showed an increase in enrollment over the prior year, in spite of the terrible COVID pandemic,” Gov. Justice said. “How many colleges in this country do you think have had an increase in enrollment in the wake of COVID? Not many. But you have here.

“Bluefield State is on the move,” Gov. Justice continued. “You’ve got a lot of great people at the helm and I could not be more proud.”
TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES / RECREATIONAL TRAILS GRANTS AWARDED
Additionally during today’s ceremony, Gov. Justice awarded five Transportation Alternatives and Recreational Trails Program (TARTP) grants, worth $389,375 in total, for a variety of projects in four counties across the Southern Coalfields region of the state.

West Virginia TARTP grants help towns and cities build and improve sidewalks, lighting, trails, and more. The program is administered by the West Virginia Department of Transportation and funded by the Federal Highway Administration.

“Today, I’m excited to announce that we are giving out yet another round of these grants,” Gov. Justice said. “It’s just more and more goodness that's happening within our communities in West Virginia. It’s helping with lighting, sidewalks, and rail trails. And it’s helping us drive tourism and inspire more and more people to come to West Virginia.”

The grants announced today are among the most recent wave of TARTP grants to be awarded this year, which includes a total of 47 grants, worth over $8.6 million, for projects in 29 counties.

“I was in a meeting on Monday evening and these grants came in,” Gov. Justice said. “I said the faster we get these out to the people, the better off it’ll be for everyone.”
This week, Gov. Justice has awarded millions of dollars-worth of these TARTP grants in several regions across the state, including: Earlier this year, Gov. Justice presented another round of 38 TARTP grants, worth over $7.4 million, for additional projects in 27 counties.

In total, Gov. Justice has awarded over $16 million TARTP grants this year alone to communities all across West Virginia.

The projects awarded today include:

MCDOWELL COUNTY
Town of Bradshaw
$40,000

Bradshaw Sidewalks Project: Construction of replacement sidewalks in the Town of Bradshaw.

Town of Iaeger
$75,000

Iaeger Sidewalk Repair and Rehabilitation Project: Construction of replacement sidewalks in Iaeger.

MERCER COUNTY
Town of Athens
$46,875

Athens Sidewalk Project: Design of replacement sidewalks within the Town of Athens.

POCAHONTAS COUNTY
U.S. Forest Service / Pocahontas Trails - Monongahela National Forest
$187,500

Cheat Mountain South Mower - Snowshoe Connector Project: Construction of approximately six miles of bike and hiking trail and six miles of connecting trail between Snowshoe and the Monongahela National Forest.

SUMMERS COUNTY
City of Hinton
$40,000

Hinton Sidewalk Project: Design of sidewalks within the City of Hinton.

Contact Information

Jordan Damron, jordan.l.damron@wv.gov

Contact

Office of the Governor
State Capitol, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E
Charleston, WV 25305

Office Phone:
304.558.2000 or 1.888.438.2731

Governor's Mansion:
304.558.3588

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