Dedication of the West Virginia Turnpike

Charleston Gazette
November 9, 1954

Pike Link to City Opened

7 Ceremonies Are Conducted

Mrs. Marland Opens Toll Road To Public; Extension Seen Soon

By Wallace E. Knight (staff writer for The Gazette)

The West Virginia Turnpike breached the mountains and pushed into the Kanawha Valley yesterday, with dedicatory ceremonies declaring it open to traffic along its entire 88-mile length.

Ceremonies at seven separate sites - four interchanges two bridges and the road's $5,000,000 tunnel - marked the opening as an official caravan moved north from Beckley to Charleston.

First paying traffic rolled over the section shortly after 10 last night, when the Turnpike was declared in service by Mrs. William C. Marland, wife of the governor, at a ceremony in the Shrine Mosque following a banquet at the Daniel Boone Hotel.

Even as the dedication program was being carried out along the scenic $133,000,000 highway, builders and backers of the Turnpike were looking to its extension beyond the present terminal point at Princeton and Charleston.

The Turnpike commissioners who led the official caravan yesterday are expected to take two actions aimed at possible extension of the route during a meeting today.

The first of these is the signing of an agreement with Virginia and North Carolina to share costs of an extensive traffic survey aimed at determining the feasibility of pushing toll roads through those states to link with the West Virginia pike.

The pact actually is in effect now by virtue of a "gentleman's agreement," it was announced Sunday at a pre-dedication press conference. The New York traffic engineering firm of Coverdale and Colpitts will do the survey work in Virginia and presumably in West Virginia, also.

Discussion of extension to the north of Charleston also is expected to take up a portion of the commission meeting. Financiers who backed the building of the present road have expressed interest in seeing links made with Ohio and Pennsylvania turnpikes, and several of the bankers attended the Sunday press gathering and yesterday's dedication tour.

Backing up assertions that the road should be extended soon, Gov. Marland declared at the dedication finale here:

"Tonight we celebrate the completion of what we hope will be segment of a turnpike running north and south through this state."

Gov. Marland added that the opening of the new road comes "at a time when the potentials of Southern West Virginia must be further developed."

Continuing, he said:

"It comes at a time when the economy of Southern West Virginia is not all that it should be: it comes at a time when the people of this area are vitally interested in any aid to diversify industry and promote agricultural development; it comes at a time when there is a surplus in what we consider one of the finest labor forces in the nation and when all eyes in West Virginia are focused on what can be done to further new industrial development. It is in this current situation that we meet to dedicate this road to the people of our state."

Asserting that many parts of the state have outgrown the present transportation system, he said that once again "we turn to the answer that our forefathers found, a turnpike paid by the tolls of those who sue it. This device...has become the salvation of primary road system."

Inadequate roads have hampered the state's economic development in many places, he continued, and funds are not available to the state government to bring these roads up to modern standards.

"It is imperative that we explore to the fullest extent the possibilities of toll turnpikes to supplement our primary highway system," he concluded.

The final touch to the day's activities came after the Govern's talk with his wife - speaking over a short wave network which connects all toll stations and police cruisers on the Turnpike - instructed toll collectors to open the highway.

She spoke first to the station at Reed, and then units at Kanawha City, Cheylan, Mossy and finally Beckley, putting the entire turnpike into operation.

The ceremony, which took place in the Shrine Mosque, was witnessed by hundreds of guests who had attended a banquet at the Daniel Boone Hotel earlier in the evening.

The first cash customer rolled onto the superhighway at the Reed station at 10:12 p.m. about an hour later than originally planned. The vehicle was a Miami Shores glass Co tractor-trailer en route from Clarksburg to Miami, Fla.

Its driver, James Reilly of Miami, had been waiting in line nearly two hours. Other vehicles waiting at the Reed exchange were backed up for more than a quarter-mile, and much congestion was reported at other service area entrances.

The seven stops that preceded the opening started at 1 p.m. at the Beckley service area where approximately 2,500 residents looked on as the Woodrow Wilson High School band played and distinguished guests were introduced.

Turnpike Commission members attending the event were Chairman A. Garnett Thompson, Vice Chairman W. G. Strathers, James M. Donohoe of Huntington, H.K. Griffith of Charleston and Edward J. Flaccus of Wheeling.

Also on hand were the two men booted from the group last June by Gov. Marland former chairman D. Holmes Morton and Hugh F. Hutchinson. Ray Cavindish, a commissioner from 1949 to 1952, and the widows of original commission members Frank Easley and Harry Radcliffe, also were on the speakers' platform.

At the Beckley site, Mayor Elmer Davis greeted the crowd and sent greeting to other communities along the line to the north.

And following this the long caravan of officials, newsmen, out-of-state observers and guests moved up to the Mossy interchange, where crowds from the Oak Hill-Mt. Hope - Fayetteville area were waiting.

Here Mayor Bernard Rocks of Mt. Hope had charge of introducing the visitors and the Collins High School band played "The West Virginia Hills" amid the spectacular Autumn beauty of those forested hills.

The Caravan next reached Bender Bridge, and at this site both the bridge and the adjacent Memorial Tunnel were memorialized by brief programs.

Col. Robert E. Wallace, chief of the West Virginia Military District, was the featured speaker at the bridge dedication, and his talk covered chiefly the wartime exploits of Beckley's Stanley Bender, Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

Bender, a dark-haired, lean and pleasant man who appeared both humble and slightly embarrassed at the attention being given him, stood by with his two attractive daughters as his wife unveiled the plaque telling of his heroism in France in 1944, when he led an attack that dislodged German defenders of a small town and killed many of them.

The plaque will go on the bridge, honoring him for his gallantry and the credit it brought his native state.

Immediately after this ceremony, and after music by the DuPont High School band, another plaque designating Memorial Tunnel as honoring all state servicemen and women was unveiled by WAC 1st Lt. Jean M. Reardon and Yeoman 3-C E. J. Belcher of the WAVES.

Capt. P.S. Morgan Jr., commanding officer at the South Charleston Navel Ordinance Plant told viewers at the site that "A mass of rock and earth was taken and converted to a landmark and monument of everlasting remembrance to all of our West Virginia men and women, past, present, and future, who have and who will faithfully devote themselves to our national defense."