Grant street bridge construction 070822

BLUEFIELD — Work on the Grant Street Bridge in Bluefield is back on track.

City Engineer Kerry Stauffer told the city board Tuesday all of the piles for the center pier have been placed, the drilling is finished and the work below ground is wrapping up.

Caps are being placed on the piles, he said, and concrete work should begin by next week.

Stauffer said it also won’t be long before steel beams can be seen as the “super structure” work begins and that is when residents will be more excited.

“You will see more hard hats in the area,” he said of a larger workforce needed after the center pier pile work was finished.

The bridge should be completed “sometime next year,” but no projected completion date has been released by the state Department of Highways (DOH), which is overseeing the project.

The bridge was initially projected to be finished by the end of 2021, but several delays were encountered.

Work was stopped in May after “soft rock” was discovered underground which made the initial plans to anchor pilings for the central pier unworkable.

Stauffer said at the time engineers submitted a plan for Brayman Construction, the contractors building the bridge, to use casings full of concrete in which to anchor the pilings.

However, the change of plans had to be approved by Norfolk Southern’s engineering consultants, a process that took several weeks. The bridge crosses the NS tracks in Bluefield.

After the new plan was finally approved, Brayman Construction then submitted a change order that costs an extra $800,000 for the $10 million project, Stauffer said, which had to be resolved through DOH.

The bridge, built in 1941 to provide access from downtown Bluefield and Princeton Avenue to the town’s North End and East Side, has been closed since June 2019 after it failed state safety inspection.

That left motorists with a lengthy and potentially hazardous narrow road to get in and out of those parts of town.

In October 2020, Gov. Jim Justice announced $10.5 million in federal, state and local funding to replace the decaying structure. Highways officials helped hammer out an agreement between Norfolk Southern Corporation and the city of Bluefield, who jointly owned the old bridge.

Under the agreement, Norfolk Southern agreed to turn over ownership of the bridge to the city of Bluefield and agreed to give city officials $500,000 as local match funding for construction. The West Virginia Division of Highways agreed to manage the project, with $8 million in funding from the Federal Highway Administration and $2 million in funding from state sources.

In the spring of 2021, Brayman Construction Corporation was awarded a contract for $8 million to tear down the old bridge and replace it with a brand-new structure.

Replacement of the bridge will provide easy access to all parts of town and to US 19.

Contractors began disassembling the old bridge in August 2021, one piece at a time.

The new bridge, built on the same footprint as the existing span, will be 330 feet long.

In other business Tuesday, the board:

• Approved the first reading of a request to transfer property at Exit 1 to the Bluefield Economic Development Authority (BEDA).

Jim Spencer, BEDA president and director of Economic and Community Development for the city, said the transfer was needed because the city does not have the negotiating power BEDA does and that property is being acquired by Omnis Building Technologies, which is constructing a manufacturing facility there.

The property is being sold to Omnis at the appraised value, he added.

Spencer said building materials for the $40 million,150,000-sq.-ft. plant that manufactures revolutionary housing and will eventually employ about 300 people should be arriving by the third week in October.

• Approved the purchase of a Christmas image mapping projector.

City Manager Cecil Marson said the projector, which has 14,500 lumens, will project images, interactive videos and movie scenes, for example, on downtown buildings and be used during the Christmas celebration season.

“It will be a very nice enhancement downtown as we get geared up for the Christmas season,” he said of Bluefield’s designation as West Virginia’s Christmas City. “This is another in a succession of initiatives to get us ready for Christmas.”

The board has already approved funding for a synthetic skating rink in the Tail Yard area.

Marson said the money for the projector was made possible by a grant from the Shott Foundation.

• Approved a 10-year lease of Bowen Field by the Bluefield Baseball Club.

City Attorney Anthony Heltzel said the current lease does not run out until the end of next year but with the Ridge Runner’s affiliation with Major League Baseball the longer lease is required by the MLB.

Heltzel said the lease does not impact use of the field by high schools or Bluefield University and Bluefield State University.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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