Bridging the past to the future

SAINT ALBANS, W.Va. — In a time characterized by struggling state budgets and stagnant road construction funds the building efficiency of a new bridge in Kanawha County received high praise during a Friday ceremony.

The Dick Henderson Memorial Nitro-St. Albans Bridge was constructed in less than 10 months and was completed nearly a month ahead of schedule.

“We hear so often about the need to look at efficiencies in government and I think this is a wonderful example of where we showed efficiencies in building this bridge,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said during Friday’s ceremony.

DOH engineers and the agency’s contractor Kokosing Construction were able to use the old bridge’s piers for the new span. The total cost was $24 million. The state DOH said using the old piers saved $5 million. The piers were refurbished in late 2012, allowing traffic to remain on the old span. The demolition process began Jan. 9, 2013 and was completed in early March. Construction of the new span followed.

Gov. Tomblin said new bridge offers better transportation for the residents of Nitro and St. Albans and the thousands of motorists who will use the span daily.

“With wider sidewalks, wider shoulders, wider travel lanes—this bridge will provide a greater sense of safety and comfort,” Tomblin said.

The original bridge, which opened in Nov. 1934, and the new bridge are named after former House of Delegates member Dick Henderson who died of cancer in 1998. The St. Albans resident was the well-known editor of the “Carbider” newspaper for 41 years. His wife Lorraine attended Friday’s ceremony and said her husband would be proud.

“He’d be so excited. He would be bursting over with joy,” Mrs. Henderson said.

Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt predicted the reopening of the bridge would have an immediate impact on his city’s economy, possibly as much as $30,000 a day.

“Our numbers are showing that we were down about 11-point-8 million dollars just in the Nitro area commerce-wise. We are taking that from our lost B&O (tax) numbers from last year,” the mayor said.

St. Albans Dick Callaway said his city’s economy has fared somewhat better during the closure but reconnecting the communities provides other benefits including recreation.

“The folks that get into exercising will enjoy it because the incline is a bit further,” he said.

Ryan Jones with Kokosing Construction said building a bridge on existing piers in 10 months wasn’t easy.

“Everything we did we ran into something that we didn’t expect, from unknown utilities to the truss being a little heavier than we anticipated. We just had to modify the plan as we went and everything went pretty well,” he said.

Jones used a torch to cut the chain that officially opened the bridge. Koskosing earned a $1 million incentive bonus by finishing the bridge early.

Motorists have had to use U.S. Route 60 and state Route 25 as detours for nearly a year.


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