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Ribbon to be cut but bridge unfinished

November 02, 2000

Ribbon to be cut but bridge unfinished



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Even though the project could be a month away from completion, Gov. Cecil Underwood's executive assistant and a top state highways official are expected to cut the ribbon on a new $17 million bridge across the Shenandoah River this morning.

The planned event, which will occur four days before the general election, drew criticism from a spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Wise.

Mike Plante said Underwood's office is using the 10 a.m. ribbon cutting to create an illusion of action from an administration that has "sat idle for three and a half years."

Plante said Underwood is "putting his short-term political needs before the long-term transportation needs of the state."

Underwood spokesman Tom Hunter said Thursday he did not know why the ribbon cutting is being held now.

State Highway Engineer Joe Deneault, who will cut the ribbon along with Phyllis Cole, said the decision to cut the ribbon was made because highways staff were already in the Eastern Panhandle this week reviewing other projects.

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Deneault, who was at a public meeting at Wright Denny Elementary School in Charles Town Thurdsay for the W.Va. 9 project, said highways officials thought they should "just go ahead and do it" while they were here.

Traffic is still using the old bridge crossing the Shenandoah River, and concrete barriers are still in place to keep traffic from using the new bridge. There are sections of railings that still have to be completed and there are different layers of pavement at the approaches to the bridge.

Paving the approaches, installing railings and other work could take up to a month, said Jennifer Wood, an engineer for Corman Construction Inc, the Annapolis, Junction, Md.-firm that is building the $17 million bridge.

The existing bridge is 51 years old and has been in bad shape for years. As far back as 1989, Jefferson County officials have been warning area residents about the bad condition of the bridge, saying it is possible tractor-trailers could be restricted from using it.

The new two-lane span has 12-foot lanes, 10-foot shoulders and a sidewalk, Hunter said.

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