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Ribbon cut on U.S. 340 bridge over Shenandoah

November 03, 2000

Ribbon cut on U.S. 340 bridge over Shenandoah



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - Emphasizing that the event had nothing to do with politics, a state Division of Highways engineer cut a ribbon on a new bridge over the Shenandoah River Friday morning athough it may be a month before work on the span is completed.

The ribbon was cut while traffic continued to stream by on the 51-year-old bridge beside it.

An engineer for the project said westbound traffic could be diverted to the new bridge next week.

The decision to cut the ribbon on the bridge drew the ire of Mike Plante, spokesman for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bob Wise.

By cutting the ribbon now, Plante said Gov. Cecil Underwood was putting his "short-term political needs before the long-term transportation needs of the state."

State Highway Engineer Joe Deneault assured the estimated 50 people who gathered on the $17 million bridge carrying U.S. 340 across the Shenandoah that politics had nothing to do with the timing of the ribbon cutting.

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"I can assure you that is the furthest from the truth. It was to take advantage of this beautiful day," Deneault said.

In four days, Underwood and Wise will face each other in what is shaping up to be a close race in Tuesday's general election.

After the ceremony, Deneault said state officials wanted to hold the ribbon cutting now because they were not sure when winter weather would start moving in.

"Maybe it's unfortunate that the election season and the end of the construction season come at the same time," Deneault said.

Underwood did not attend the ribbon cutting.

Concrete barriers remained in place to keep traffic from using the new bridge and sections of railing remain to be completed.

Workers were installing metal reinforcements for a sidewalk on the bridge Friday morning.

Westbound traffic will be diverted onto the new bridge, possibly as early as Tuesday, said project engineer Matt Kitchen.

That traffic pattern probably will remain in place for about three weeks while work continues on approaches to the bridge, Kitchen said.

Eastbound traffic would then be allowed to use the new bridge while workers continue shoulder and guardrail work, Kitchen said.

The remaining work on the bridge could be completed by Christmas, Kitchen said.

Starting in mid-December, construction crews will begin dismantling the old bridge. The sections over land will be dismantled and the sections over the river will be razed with the use of explosives, Kitchen said.

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