The old bridge, which was damaged in the flood of 2016, provided the only access to the homes of 14 families on Big Sandy Avenue besides a low-water crossing.
In addition to safe passage for residents, the new bridge will also allow first responders – including police officers, firefighters, and paramedics – to reach these families in the event of an emergency.
“Today, the flood is gone and the sun is shining on this part of West Virginia. I can never thank everyone who worked on this project enough,” Gov. Justice said.
“I go back to the time of that flood. It was absolutely the worst thing that I have ever experienced,” Gov Justice continued. “I wish to goodness we could have had this project done 10 minutes after that terrible flood happened. It wasn’t fast enough because, when you’re hurting, it’s never fast enough. But I do know that a lot of good West Virginians who care about these people pulled the rope together and got it done. For all the families impacted by this bridge being damaged, I truly couldn’t be happier that this day is finally here.”
The Governor was joined for the event by officials with West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (WV VOAD); the association that coordinated the organizations and volunteers who completed the bridge project.
The new bridge was built by the WV VOAD Bridge Construction team, with help from Ohio-based volunteer organization Mennonite Disaster Service. It was funded through the RISE West Virginia program.
“Everybody knows what happened to our state back on June 23, 2016. We were devastated. Not long after, I got a call about this bridge. 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. We kept working,” said Jenny Gannaway, Executive Director of WV VOAD.
“Shortly after Governor Justice was elected, he jumped right on board to make sure our bridge program got the funding to take care of families with bridges like this,” Gannaway continued. “It would have been very difficult to fulfill this dream as we have today without it.
“Big Blue is completed and families have a safe way home now.”
The event also included leaders with the West Virginia Department of Commerce, the West Virginia Department of Transportation, local leaders in Clendenin, representatives from the offices of U.S. senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, and other officials.
“The Governor gave me responsibility of this program last April. He expects results. He cares about people. He cares about these 14 families,” said West Virginia Department of Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch. “Unfortunately, it takes us a lot longer to build back what Mother Nature destroys, but this is something special. It’s something to celebrate.”
“No family should have to worry about first responders being unable to make it to their homes because of an unstable structure. Today, we celebrated West Virginia VOAD’s latest and largest bridge project that will provide support for 14 families in the region,” Senator Manchin said. “The reconstruction of this bridge has been a safe, cost-effective, and first and foremost, sustainable addition to this community – and will remain for many years to come. I am grateful to the organizations and individuals who have aided in the recovery process from the 2016 flood and I am proud to join countless families in West Virginia in thanking them for their service.”
“We are so fortunate to have WV VOAD and their partners, who have worked tirelessly for years to replace this bridge and restore a sense of normalcy to the 14 homeowners and families on Big Sandy Avenue. It’s because of efforts like these, as well as the community response and leadership at the federal, state, and local levels, that we have been able to come a long way since the historic 2016 floods. This project is also the reason I fought so hard for the resources following the flood. While it has been a challenge to get to this point, I’m thrilled that the bridge is completed, and I thank Governor Justice for his leadership overseeing the state’s recovery efforts, including this project,” Senator Capito said.
Spanning 310 feet in length, the new Big Blue Bridge is the largest of 43 bridges that have now been completed by WV VOAD in response to the 2016 floods.
The WVDOT provided engineering assistance that made completion of the project possible.