HENLAWSON — Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, along with several other state and local officials, officially opened the new Robert T. “Bob” Carper Vietnam Veterans Bridge Monday morning with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The new bridge, at a cost of $3 million, replaces a truss bridge that was built in the 1920s in Fayette County and moved to Henlawson in the early 1950s. The truss bridge was dedicated in Carper’s memory in 2006 by the West Virginia Legislature for “gratitude and recognition for this dedicated soldier and veteran’s good works and patriotic spirit.”
“We’re here to open a brand new bridge for Henlawson, one that replaces a structure that was built around 1925 and updated and repaired in 1985.” Tomblin said. “This is a brand new $3 million bridge for the residents of Henlawson to use… hopefully for the next 50 to 100 years.”
Paul Mattox, W.Va. Commissioner of Highways and Secretary of Transportation, said the old truss bridge had to be replaced.
“It had gotten to the point that they would no longer take school buses across the truss,” Mattox said. “It’s nice to come out today and cut the ribbon on a new bridge that will take school buses safely across the river. There is a lot of history in this old bridge, but it has served its time.”
State Senator Art Kirkendoll said he was pleased to see infrastructure improvement in Logan County.
“Any time we can have infrastructure, like the new Henlawson bridge… the sense of pride is hard to describe,” Kirkendoll said. “The whole nation is challenged right now on infrastructure and to see a bridge like this to go in and we’re working on Route 10 to complete it. We’ve got some other things we are working with the Governor’s office and the County Commission … we want to do a little work on the Guyandotte River and some other things. We’re trying to get our county to where we can get our coal miners back to work first and second we want to have other jobs for our people and diversify our economy. But it takes infrastructure, and something like this, it’s a beautiful bridge and the people of Henlawson deserve this.”
Along with state and local officials, also cutting the ribbon for the new bridge was Carper’s wife, Sandra Carper.
“I feel very honored,” a tearful Mrs. Carper said. “I was blessed to have him as long as I did. …the work that he did for the veterans, that was his main goal was to help veterans know what kind of benefits and stuff was out there for them.”
County Commission President Danny Godby said he thought it was a great day for the residents of Henlawson.
“I think this is a great day for the residents of Henlawson and the county of Logan,” Godby said. “This three million dollar bridge is a necessity… not only does it take care of the community, it takes care of the Vietnam Veterans who have housing over here. It’s just a great thing.”
Rev. Danny Wells, who led the Pledge of Allegiance at the ceremony and is a member of the Vietnam Veterans, said it was great to be a part of the ceremony. Wells said he would also like to see a sign placed at the entrance of the bridge from Route 10 that would let veterans from out of the area where the Vets Center is located.
Several Henlawson residents also voiced their liking for the newly built bridge.
“I think it is very, very nice. It’s what we needed for a very long time,” said Henlawson resident Steve Podunavac.
Charles Farmer says he has been traveling the old bridge since it was put in in 1953. “I’ve been traveling it all my life and I’m 69 years old,” Farmer said. “It nice, (the new bridge) it really is.”
Martha Sparks is a news reporter and can be reached at 304-752-6950, ext. 1728, or via Twitter at @MarthaSparks.