Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Princeton Times

November 4, 2011

Safety concerns push Thorn Street bridge work

PRINCETON — Come spring, a local landmark is set for a small-scale facelift.

In the wake of a meeting between local legislators, City of Princeton officials and representatives of the West Virginia Division of Highways, the Thorn Street Bridge is tentatively slated for repaired sidewalks and a fresh coat of paint.

While Princeton residents and local motorists have long worried about the safety of the bridge that shows signs of everyday wear and tear and its 74 years of service, DOH District 10 Bridge Engineer Tim Powell confirmed Thursday that the bridge is safe.

“There’s nothing structural wrong with the bridge. The problems are mainly just aesthetic,” Powell said.

The concrete bridge and its steel rails carry West Virginia Route 20 over the Norfolk-Southern Railway tracks and Brush Creek near Princeton’s East End. It also includes two sidewalks that allow Princeton residents to make their way over Thorn Street on foot.

It’s those sidewalks that present the biggest concern for Princeton’s Vice Mayor Marshall Lytton.

“Hopefully, we’ll get that bridge repaired so that people can walk across it without stumbling on broken concrete,” Lytton said. “We want to make it as safe as possible, and this will really help.”

The latest effort to restore the bridge began when Lytton asked Mercer County Del. John Frazier for help during a Princeton Fire Department 100th anniversary celebration in August. From there, Lytton contacted Frazier, Del. Joe Ellington and Sen. Mark Wills for additional assistance in securing and beautifying the bridge that is well-traveled daily.

As the effort evolved, the lawmakers, Lytton, City Manager Wayne Shumate, and the DOH’s Powell and Tom Camden met to examine the bridge in person.

“We walked it up one side and down the other, identifying places that needed some work,” Lytton said.

Built by J.M. Francesa and Company in 1947, the Thorn Street Bridge has routinely fallen under scrutiny by residents and passersby, primarily due to peeling or missing paint and aging sidewalks.

In recent years, the DOH has embarked on several campaigns to replace and/or repair deteriorating sidewalk segments along the bridge, and Powell said that should continue once winter’s snow and ice leave the region early next year.

Completion of the sidewalk project will benefit people who travel the bridge regularly on foot.

“The work will make it more usable by the public,” Shumate said, agreeing with Powell that the rest of the project focuses primarily on making the bridge more attractive to visitors and residents alike.

— Contact Tammie Toler at ttoler@ptonline.net.

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