Many celebrate dedication of US 35’s last 14.6-mile stretch

FRAZIER’S BOTTOM, W.Va. — Almost everybody in the crowd that had gathered on the final four-lane stretch of U.S. Route 35 Thursday had a story about whether they thought the road would ever be completed.

U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. (File)

Those questions were answered when the ribbon was cut on the 14.6 mile stretch that will link Frazier’s Bottom in Putnam County to Beech Hill in Mason County, making the 37-mile highway all four-lane.

“The first comment we had to each here was, ‘Did we ever think that we’d get to this day?'” U.S. Senator Shelley Moore told the crowd. “Here we are. What a great day.”

The first section of four-lane was completed in 1997 in Mason County. After a second session was completed there a few later, 11-miles from Interstate 64 at Scott Depot to the Frazier’s Bottom were completed by 2009, much of the money coming from earmarks in federal money secured by then Rep. Capito.

But getting the last stretch completed seemed to be the most difficult.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. (File)

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin spoke Thursday and talked about moving the project up the priority list when he was governor.

“I would see the lists of priority projects and for some reason Route 35 was not on that. So we started looking at the most dangerous highways we had, the most accidents, the most peoples lives at risks, Route 35 was always on the top, always on the top,” Manchin said.

Once Manchin left office, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin pushed the final section and was able get the earth moving part of the section under contract. Gov. Jim Justice came on board and promoted his “Roads to Prosperity” program which paid for the completion, which cost about $250 million.

Justice said he traveled Route 35 a lot when he was in school at Marshall. He said he would drive to Mason and Putnam counties to bird hunt.

Governor Jim Justice

“I would come and I would drive 35 all the time and I would think, ‘This place is dangerous and if there was any place that ever needed a road it was this,'” Justice said.

He said the opening the final stretch is a great achievement.

“Today, finally, we have achieved and we have done exactly what my dad always said, ‘Don’t confuse effort with accomplishment,’ today we have achieved,” Justice said.

State Transportation Secretary Jimmy Wriston is Route 35 is now a safe, modern highway.

“It will take lives and take all of that different type of traffic and separate it,” Wriston said.

Only the southbound lanes were opened to traffic Thursday. Wriston said it would take a few days to remove the barriers from the northbound lanes. It said it wouldn’t be long until all lanes are ready for traffic.

There was special recognition given Thursday to families of Jack Fruth and Charles Lanham. Fruth and Lanham, two successful businessmen, devoted years toward the effort of making Route 35 a four-lane highway. Both men have passed in recent years.

MetroNews reporter Carrie Hodousek contributed to this story. 

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