Grant Street Bridge inspection

Workers inspect the damage on the Grant Street Bridge. A report on the bridge’s condition is slated for release the first week of September.

BLUEFIELD — The Grant Street Bridge inspection report is in, and the bridge may be in worse condition than anticipated.

City Manager Dane Rideout told the city board Tuesday that the Department of Highways (DOH) inspection of the Grant Street Bridge has been received, but not yet analyzed because of the size of the report. However, he said, at first glance, the DOH said the bridge is “in worse shape than we thought.”

The inspection of the structure of the bridge was completed in early August. The bridge has been closed since June because it was deemed unsafe by the DOH.

But a complete inspection was needed to determine a course of action to open it as soon as possible, if feasible.

The inspection report is also in the hands of Chris Bennett, lead engineer with Norfolk Southern, which co-owns the bridge with the city.

“Our engineers are looking at it, and their engineers are looking at it,” he said. “We have to get an analysis …”

That analysis will determine whether the 80-year-old bridge, which crosses the railroad between Princeton Avenue and Grant Street, can be repaired or replaced.

Rideout said the inspection showed “graphic pictures of salt damage that is worse than anyone expected.”

The bridge serves residents of the north side of the city and many have complained of the inconvenience and safety of coming into the city by using the narrow and curvy streets in that area. 

Cost estimates to replace the Grant Street Bridge have ranged from $5 million to $7 million or more.

“We don’t think asking for a bridge is too much money,” said Delores French, a resident of the area impacted. “We have paid and paid (in taxes over the years). We are due to have that bridge replaced. I think whatever we need to do should be done.”

French also asked the city to condense the inspection report into a summary so the public could see the important highlights.

Rideout said that will be done and posted on the city’s website.

The next step in the process will be to hire an engineering firm, along with NS, to evaluate how to fix the bridge or what is feasible to do with it.

That study could cost $250,000 or more, he said.

After the bridge was closed and residents complained, the city started trying to determine if a temporary fix is possible with a permanent solution down the road.

No decision on that can be made until after the inspection report has been analyzed by engineers, Rideout said.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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