BREAKS, Va. (WJHL) - Virginia's tallest bridge may finally open to traffic next year, years after construction finished.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is planning to open the Route 460 Connector bridge that spans Grassy Creek in Buchanan County in 2020. Located near Breaks Interstate Park, the north end of the bridge virtually touches the Kentucky-Virginia state line.
The Grassy Creek bridge actually consists of two bridges that are approximately 1,700-feet long and 250-feet tall, making them the tallest in the state. Roads and Bridges magazine named it the No. 1 bridge project of 2013. It cost around $120 million to build the bridge and a short stretch of highway connected to its southern end.
Construction of the twin bridges was completed about four years ago according to VDOT, but they have remained closed to traffic because the highway leading up to them, future US Route 460, hasn't been completed.
The Grassy Creek bridge was built as part of VDOT's Route 460 Connector project. Once complete, the Virginia portion of the highway will run from the Kentucky state line and connect with the existing US 460 near Grundy. It will also intersect the Coalfields Expressway/US 121, which is also still under construction.
Just like the Coalfields Expressway, the goal of the Route 460 Connector project is to create a safe and reliable road through Central Appalachia that will generate economic development. Lack of infrastructure is an ongoing issue in the coalfields. Dickenson County, just west of Buchanan County, still doesn't have a four-lane highway.
The majority of the new US 460 in Virginia will be a two-lane limited access highway with truck climbing lanes in some areas. The Kentucky portion will be a four-lane.
VDOT says it will finally open the Grassy Creek bridge when Kentucky completes and opens the stretch of highway on its side of the state line, which will connect with the bridge's northern end. That's supposed to happen in late summer or early fall next year.
But even if Kentucky opens its stretch of highway and Virginia opens the Grassy Creek bridge next year, the segment of future US 460 south of the bridge still won't be complete. Drivers coming from Kentucky, after crossing the bridge, will have to turn onto an access road that leads to Breaks Interstate Park and Route 80.
VDOT expects to complete a roughly six-mile stretch of future US 460 from the Grassy Creek bridge to the Poplar Gap area sometime in 2021.