Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

March 9, 2013

Bridge building — Bluefield project important

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— A long-planned and needed bridge replacement project for the city of Bluefield is finally moving closer toward construction.

The $6 million project involves a replacement of the existing Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge. The state Division of Highways has determined that the existing bridge, which was constructed in 1966, needs to be replaced for safety purposes, according to Bluefield City Manager Jim Ferguson.

Ferguson correctly notes that the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge is one of the most heavily traveled structures in Bluefield — second only to the Frank Easley Bridge over U.S. Route 52 in terms of vehicle volume.

The new bridge once it is constructed will be slightly elevated to help further accommodate double decker trains. Ferguson says Norfolk Southern contributed $200,000 of the original $300,000 the city pledged to pay for the bridge reconstruction project. However, the bulk of the funds being used to complete the $6 million project will come from federal stimulus dollars awarded to the state.

“This is mostly being funded through federal money from the stimulus with a little city money,” Ferguson said last week. “The West Virginia DOH is helping as well. Of course, 80 percent of the project will be funded by federal money. The original estimate was around $1.6 million and the city was only responsible for 20 percent or $300,000. The price tag was then changed to $6 million due to utility issues and other issues they found. We are looking in to see exactly how much the city is going to end up paying.”

The DOH will oversee the actual construction, but the city is working now to address issues such as identifying alternate routes for emergency vehicles, accommodating community and Bluefield State College traffic and identifying public utilities that will be impacted by the bridge replacement project. The DOH hopes to have the final project plan and design completed by this summer. The project itself should go out to bid this fall. The actual construction is now tentatively slated for early 2014.

Ferguson says several utilities will be impacted by the construction.

“There are a lot more utilities involved than you might think,” Ferguson said. “There is a lot of electrical involved since there are street lights on the bridge that will have to be removed. A large electric grid is in that area as well as stormwater. A lot of the utility companies have come out to do assessments for the project.”

Ferguson says the city will hold public meetings to keep citizens informed of the project, including detours that will be needed once the actual bridge replacement project begins.

We are glad to see that this long-planned bridge replacement project is finally taking shape. We look forward to the construction of a new and improved Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge that will better serve the city, its citizens and Norfolk Southern double decker rail traffic.