MASON COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and other Mountain State officials cut the ribbon on a major infrastructure project that many say has been a long time coming.

With a lot of pomp and circumstance, the road termed ‘the gateway to the south’ is newly opened.

“Nine governors, and 53 years. There’s hardly an engineer that’s been in the industry any length of time that hasn’t worked on this project in one form or another,” remarks Jimmy Wriston, Secretary of the Department of Transportation, WVDOH.

Officials from the Mountain State and from around the Tri-State are celebrating the completion of the last 14.6 mile stretch, which came with a price tag of 257 million dollars.

This Roads to Prosperity project, which is part of the governor’s 2.8 billion dollar highway construction and maintenance program, will allow drivers to run this stretch on four new lanes of highway.

“This is truly a gateway. I mean that’s all there is to it – to absolutely connect us to Ohio, and absolutely the Midwest and bring us right into our capitol city, this is truly a gateway. It can be developed the whole way now,” says Governor Jim Justice (R-WV).

Many I spoke with say this new road could bring many economic opportunities.

“The commerce that comes through here is enormous and we want to make sure they come safe and they stop and they have have a good experience,” remarked Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

Lynne Fruth, who says her father worked on this road with others for 35 years and considered it the labor of his life, says this renewal will go miles to making the area safer.

“They believed if they could get 35 to a four-lane, it would help West Virginia, it would help Mason County, and primarily it would cut down on all the fatalities that we’ve seen over the years,” comments Fruth.

“A lot of people call this a death road. And really and truly that’s a crying shame. It absolutely exposed us to so many bad accidents and we hope and pray this’ll take’em away,” says Governor Justice.

And after an inaugural ride on the newly paved Route 35, highways officials tell me how much it all means to them:

“This road was driven by the local folks in Putnam and Mason County and their representatives. And it’s just a wonderful story about of the power of the people,” says Wriston.

The southbound lanes of this highway are open now, and Governor Justice says we can expect the northbound lanes to be open in a few days.