By Emily Gallagher
Times West Virginian
With the completion of the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayetteville, opportunities were available for that area as well as the state.
Robin Snyder, chief of visitors’ services at New River Gorge National River, said when construction of the bridge was completed in 1977 it reduced the travel time from one side of the gorge to the other.
“It was a very critical connecter because it reduced the time of travel from 45 minutes to less than 45 seconds,” she said.
When the New River Gorge Bridge was built, it stood as the world’s largest single-arch steel span bridge. In 2003, the Lupu Bridge was built in Shanghai, China, with the arch span measuring 550 meters. The New River Gorge Bridge is now the second largest single-arch span bridge in the world with its 518-meter arch length.
The bridge is managed, maintained and owned by the West Virginia Department of Transportation. The final cost of construction was $37 million.
The New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet above the New River, making it the second highest bridge in the United States after the Royal Gorge Bridge standing 1,053 feet over the Arkansas River in Colorado.
Snyder said the beautiful engineering and design of the New River Gorge Bridge put West Virginia on the map.
“The bridge is this amazing manmade structure that really is the icon for the state,” she said. “Anywhere you go across the country and the world, people recognize the bridge with West Virginia.”
A year after the New River Gorge Bridge was built, the New River Gorge National River and National Park was established in the area.
“Having the bridge and park here has really increased tourism to this area,” Snyder said.
Snyder said even though the park doesn’t own the bridge, it’s within the park’s boundaries and they use the structure to their advantage.