CLENDENIN, W.Va. (AP) — A bridge in central West Virginia that has been closed since it was damaged during historic floods in 2016 has reopened.
The completion of the Big Blue Bridge near Clendenin means 14 families will have consistent road access to their homes again. Since the flooding, residents of Big Sandy Avenue have only had low-water crossing access, according to a news release from Gov. Jim Justice.
In addition to helping residents reach their homes, the new bridge will allow first responders to reach families during emergencies.
Spanning 310 feet (94.5 meters) in length, the new Big Blue Bridge is the largest of 43 bridges that have now been reconstructed after damage from the 2016 floods.
During a ribbon-cutting for the bridge earlier this week, Justice said the 2016 flood was “absolutely the worst thing that (he has) ever experienced.”
“I wish to goodness we could have had this project done 10 minutes after that terrible flood happened,” he said. “It wasn’t fast enough because, when you’re hurting, it’s never fast enough.”
The new bridge was built by the West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster Bridge Construction team, with help from Ohio-based volunteer organization Mennonite Disaster Service. It was funded through the RISE West Virginia program.
Jenny Gannaway, exective director of West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, said reconstruction of the Big Blue Bridge was a challenge for the group.
“We were used to building smaller bridges, so we didn’t know what we were going to do, but we didn’t close the door on these families,” she said. “We kept working.”
The bridge was completed with engineering assistance from the West Virginia Department of Transportation.