W.Va. 279 Opens Drivers Come Out Early To Get First Look At New Road

Clarksburg Exponent Telegram

by Nora Edinger, Regional Editor

BRIDGEPORT (Tuesday, May 7, 2002, Page A1)

It didn't take local drivers long to try out W.Va. 279. About 100 cars breezed through in the first hour after barricades marking the long-term project were removed early Monday.

Some of the drivers appeared to have been waiting for the opportunity.

"As soon as we opened them, traffic picked right up," said Rusty McLain, a Mannington resident who works for the state Division of Highways.

He and road worker Leo O'Dell of Bridgeport were still loading construction signs into a truck as the first few drivers came through.

Many of them were proceeding well below the 45 and 55 mph limits posted on various parts of the road, just slowly enough to get a clear first look at Bridgeport's northernmost spaces. A few made illegal U-turns and gave the road another go.

Kim Haws, Bridgeport city manager, was among the early-birds.

"I went out and drove it several times," Haws said late Monday afternoon. "I saw some cars out there but I've not heard any remarks, positive or negative."

He said the city is delighted with construction of the $30 million, 2.8-mile highway as a municipal bypass. W.Va. 279 stretches from I-79 at Jerry Dove Drive to U.S. 50 near the Taylor County border.

It particularly allows faster access to Harrison-Marion Regional Airport, its adjacent industrial park and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's fingerprint center. United Hospital Center also hopes to build a new site at the intersection with I-79.

The road also opens up parts of Bridgeport that were previously landlocked, a change that suggests a new future for the farmlike atmosphere. At one 20-acre parcel, a brick ranch already bears a sign posting its sale as industrial property.

Other sights on the road include a rear view of the aerospace park, a new intersection at W.Va. 131/Benedum Drive, and the road cuts and land grading that mark out parts of a planned community called Charles Pointe.