Bridge demolition set for September

Published 9:49 am Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Clarkton Bridge demolition process is currently set to officially begin next month.

Aspen/Phenix Supervisor Donna Fore said the contract has been given to a company in Marland. “The demolition will begin probably sometime in September,” she said.

The Clarkton Bridge, connecting Halifax and Charlotte Counties, has been closed to all traffic since 2015.

“A $505,763.00 contract was awarded for the dismantling and removal of the Clarkton Bridge,” said Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Lynchburg District Communications Manager Paula Jones.

Fore said the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) has been trying to be respectful so individuals could still enjoy access to the river while the weather is good for fishing and outdoor recreation, resulting in the demolition  being held off until September.

“The demolition must be complete by January of 2019,” she said. “That’s the final day where it has to be done …”

In light of this, Fore said there was some urgency to the contractor getting started sooner than later.

“There is respect for the fact that it is of historical significance to that bridge,” she said. “The contractor will preserve memorabilia from the bridge to be used in a public setting …”

She said this could include a public library or a museum.

“They’re going to remove some pieces of the bridge for historical purposes to retain it,” said Fore.

She said in the future, it is desired for a meeting to be held with the DGIF and VDOT after the demolition of the bridge.

Fore said the purpose of the meeting would be to discuss options for the boat access currently located on Clarkton Bridge Road into the Staunton River.

“That’ll have to happen in January or February once the bridge is down we can see what we have left there to work with,” she said.

Fore said all options are being kept open. “We want to respect the fact that people need access to the river … the area that’s available to us is a 30 foot easement from the road, that’s not a very wide area, but it is wide enough to do a boat launch,” said Fore.

She said the only concern raised was a turnaround area for vehicles.

“If you want to take one last look at it and take a few pictures , you should probably do it now …,” said Fore.

According to the Clarkton Bridge Alliance, the bridge was first built in 1901.

It was later closed in 1998, but reopened again to the public in 2005. The bridge was previously used as a link for walking, bicycling and horseback riding trails, according to the alliance.

In order to rehabilitate the bridge an estimated $7-8 million would be needed, according to the alliance. Because public funding sources are limited, the work would require private funds from individuals or philanthropic foundations and corporations, according to alliance officials previously.

VDOT officials first announced the fate of the bridge in March.

Tony Opperman, VDOT’s cultural resources program manager said at that time, “the bridge is in such poor condition VDOT does not even allow its own bridge inspectors on the bridge.”

He said the Clarkton Bridge was a lightly built bridge and “there’s not a lot of material in it.”

Opperman said VDOT engaged all stakeholders in Charlotte and Halifax to look at all the available options starting in September 2016.

He said options ranged from demolition to a sensitive rehabilitation, however, the condition of the bridge trumps any effort to retain historic integrity.

He said over 90 percent of the bridge materials would need replacement, costing $10 million.

The bridge was permanently closed in 2015 as a result of a bridge safety inspection, according to Shippee.

Opperman said the decision of the stakeholders is reflected in the memorandum of agreement (MOA) and the MOA closes the Section 106 process and five stakeholder meetings were held by VDOT.