The Times West Virginian

Opinion

September 26, 2012

Clarksburg Street Bridge replacement must be completed for safety reasons

It’s something for which the people of Mannington have been waiting for quite some time.

And now, thanks to city council’s approval of the first reading of a new ordinance last week, plans are being set in motion for the replacement of the Clarksburg Street Bridge.

It’s a project city officials have been eyeing for years.

In fact, the condition of the city’s bridges has been on the mind of elected officials for at least the past two decades. In 2009, Mannington Mayor Bob Garcia said the issue was one that had been on his mind since being elected to council in 1987.

Safety remains a concern to this day, especially because so many students cross the Clarksburg Street Bridge on their way to and home from school each weekday.

“Mannington kids, Dent’s Run and Farmington kids come across the bridge every day,” Garcia told the Times West Virginian three years ago. He added that if the bridge were to collapse with the kids on it, “it will wipe out the next generation of kids for this end of the county.”

Three years ago, city officials said that despite numerous unsatisfactory reports at the time, the state would not require the bridge to undergo repairs until inspections determined that the nearly 90-year-old structure posed a significant safety hazard.

Reports from the West Virginia Division of Highways now, though, have shown more deficiencies in the bridge, and it looks as if the replacement of the structure will finally happen.

As Garcia told the Times West Virginian last summer, “We need to act now.”

Although city officials say they aren’t sure of the potential cost of the project, we all know infrastructure of this magnitude doesn’t come inexpensively.

Just last year, city council members tossed around the idea of adding a $2 or $3 fee to residents’ water bills as a way to raise a portion of the city’s share of money for the project. That discussion was met with opposition from some, but others said a monthly fee of just a few dollars would be a small price to pay for safety.

So sure, there are a few more steps that must be taken before the project really gets off the ground. To start, the next and final readings have to be approved. Funding has to be secured. An appropriate timeline for the project must be set.

And because the replacement of the bridge will be a joint project between the city and the state, it will take cooperative efforts from all parties involved.

But the project is closer to fruition than it ever has been, and that is a victory. We’re glad Mannington officials have remained dedicated to the project and, ultimately, to residents’ safety.

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