For years, the bridge that crosses the Tug River at Sprigg onto a road that goes through to Burnwell has been used for its intended purpose of hauling coal, by drivers issued a pass by the company and as a short cut to U.S. 119 by motorists who found the gate open and unattended.
Since the route is no longer being used as a coal-haul road, the bridge’s owner, Alpha Natural Resources, is planning to close the road accessing the bridge to public traffic on November 15, 2013, due to liability concerns. The company reached out to the Pike County Government offering to donate the road, right-of-way and bridge to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KTC), but the KTC rejected pleas from the Pike County Government to bring the road and bridge into Kentucky’s road system.
W.Va. Senator Truman Chafin and Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford met this week, bringing together state and local officials from the two states in an effort to find a solution to keep the bridge open and meet the vital need for interstate access.
Both Judge Rutherford and Sen. Chafin agreed that keeping the bridge open is a huge public safety matter as well as a quality of life issue for area residents. The privately constructed coal-haul bridge exceeds both state and federal standards for design and safety and the bridge is believed to be the quickest, safest and easiest access residents have to medical care, trips to the grocery store and for travel to and from work.
Visitors who travel on the Hatfield & McCoy Trail have the ability to drive a “closed loop” to visit the many historic feud sites in the two states, including the Uriah McCoy House and McCoy Cemetery, which are along this route.
“Keeping this bridge open is a crucial issue that directly affects the lives of the people who live in the area and it also has a profound effect on our local economy—people use this bridge everyday for very important reasons in order to live. Pike County has taken the access road into our county system and we are hopeful West Virginia will take the bridge into its system. Sen. Chafin and I are committed to doing everything we can to keep the bridge open,” said Judge Rutherford.
“The state lines that separate the people of the Tug Valley between Mingo County, WV and Pike County, KY are truly just lines on a map. Many of our people in Mingo County buy their groceries in Pike County and go to the ARH Hospital at South Williamson for their medical services. If the Sprigg bridge was closed, it would be devastating,” Sen. Chafin said.
Officials plan to follow up on the meeting held at Sprigg and both sides have agree the goal is to keep the bridge open so that area residents are not hurt.