By Sarah Richardson
The old walking bridge in downtown Ronceverte, officially known as the Fred Workman Memorial Bridge, has been a busy site for the past several weeks as Public Works crewmembers began the removal of the old decking that spans the length of the bridge.
“They are currently removing the decking, and the city is doing this because it’s a safety issue,” said Ronceverte Mayor David Smith. “It’s reached a point where it needed to happen, and we got the equipment we needed to get it done. Right now it’s about halfway done, the decking is halfway off. We are working on it as much as our crew can. Hopefully it will be done in the next couple of weeks.”
“The big concern for the past several years was the deterioration and the safety of folks under the bridge,” said Smith. “It isn’t cheap, but we purchased platforms for the machinery to go out and work on the bridge.”
He specified that while nobody lives directly under the bridge, it is still a possible hazard to citizens. “There are three roads that cross under it,” he clarified, along with several sidewalks.
The footbridge has been closed to pedestrian traffic since the early 2000s due to the deteriorating condition of the structure. It used to be a direct route for walkers to get from downtown to Island Park and vice versa.
In 2012, Tina Alvey with the Register Herald reported that volunteers were meeting at the bridge each Saturday to remove rotting decking. The city administrator at the time, Reba Mohler, said the bridge had last been updated in the 1990s, and untreated wood was covered in a layer of asphalt. This process did not stand the test of time, and decayed quickly. At that time, it was reported that CSX was discussing the project, but made no solid plans for renovations.
Earlier this year the city submitted a grant application, together with engineers from the Thrasher Group, for $60,000 from the Department of Highways (DOH). They hope to use these funds to make a plan for the future of the bridge.
“If we get the grant, we can make a plan to tear down or replace it,” said Smith. However, progress has been slow thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is unclear as to when the city will know if they will be awarded the grant funds.
“The bridge is owned by the city, but CSX is in charge of the maintenance,” he explained. “We are hoping that they will do what they have done in the past and do repairs.”
While the details are still in the works, some progress is encouraging for the locals.
“It’s a fascination for everybody to be seeing this finally happening,” Smith said. “It’s taken us a long time to get where we are at. Our city crew has done a great job.”