Persistence pays off

Nearly a generation has gone by since local residents began pushing hard for construction of a new Ohio River bridge linking southern Brooke and Jefferson counties, as West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice pointed out Tuesday.

“I don’t know how you stood it for 18 years,” he remarked.

But the wait is over. Justice made his comments during ceremonies to break ground for the construction project. The new span is expected to be completed in 2021.

Once that happens, the bridge should be a boost to economic development in our area. As Beech Bottom Mayor Becky Uhlly noted Tuesday, it will “open up the whole southern end of Brooke County for commercial and residential development.” It also will benefit Jefferson County.

Not only will a new river crossing at this location reduce traffic on bridges in more populated areas, such as Steubenville, Weirton and Wheeling, but it will have other benefits for residents. The primary one will be that drivers will be able to save several miles each time they want to cross the river.

With a substantial amount of federal funding involved, about two-thirds of the cost of the bridge will be borne by West Virginia, with Ohio covering about one-third.

Plans for the span call for it to be wide enough to accommodate four lanes of traffic. Two will be for normal east-west travel, one will be a turning lane and the fourth will be reserved for bicyclists.

That last provision may be a good thing, in view of the growing popularity of bicycling in our area and the increasing mileage of paved trails set aside for that traffic. As has been pointed out, the bridge could be converted to four lanes for cars and trucks, if the need arises in the future.

Many people — including the governor for his support of a $1.6 billion road bond issue in West Virginia — deserve credit for the project. But the lion’s share of praise goes rightly to the many local residents and officials who conceived the idea and never gave up on it.