POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Mason County Commissioner Rick Handley has ridden on the Route 35 project with members of the construction and engineering team every week since work began. The constant updates have enabled him to watch the road take shape.
Gov. Jim Justice announced on Tuesday the new section will be finished by the end of August. The 15 miles stretch from the Buffalo Bridge to Beech Hill in the Henderson community. It’s the last segment in a four lane road to connect I-64 at Scott Depot to the Ohio River at Point Pleasant.
Handley is one of those who has been around a long time and pushed hard for the widening of the new highway to replace the dangerous two-lane road along the Kanawha River. He was at the State of the State Address in January 2015 when then Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced the project was being placed back on the priority list to complete.
“I was as excited yesterday as I was that night to learn it will finally be completed,” Handley said.
It’s been a long process for Handley who credited two other local leaders who won’t be around to see it.
“My mentors Jack Fruth and Charlie Lanham put in a lot of time on this, but unfortunately won’t be around physically to see it. But I guarantee you they are looking down on us and all of us in Mason County are ecstatic,” he said.
Today I joined @WVDOT to announce that the last stretch of US 35 will be open to traffic in August! I placed top priority on the completion of this project and I am excited to cut the ribbon on it soon.
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) June 8, 2021
There was an effort at one point in the process to build the road with tolls to pay the cost. Mason County residents rejected the idea of paying a toll which they considered unfair. The opposition pushed by the road’s development for several years, but it will open up at the end of the summer with no tolls.
Handley lauded the possibilities for commerce and business attraction, but beyond development possibilities, a safe highway is what thrilled him the most.
“That was our main concern all along, the safety of people riding that road. I’ve lost some dear friends on that road and it’s a blessing to know it’s a safe road and it’s out of the flood zone,” he explained.