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Making a connection

January 16, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Bricks, steel and more than $1.16 million. That's what it's going to take to link the Roundhouse Center to the city of Martinsburg.

A plan to build an enclosed pedestrian bridge means visitors who want to see the Roundhouse no longer will have to meander along residential streets to get there. They will not have to ride a trolley that runs only during special events.

The pedestrian bridge will start on a tower connected to the end of Caperton Train Station and will be elevated above CSX-owned railroad tracks that are used by freight and passenger trains.

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It will end on the other side of the tracks, in front of the Roundhouse, in a matching tower. Both towers will have stairs and an elevator, said Bill Hayes, executive director of the Roundhouse Authority.

Both towers will be brick, while the enclosed walkway over the tracks will be made of steel, Hayes said.

"It really provides a direct connection with the rest of the city" including parking lots, Hayes said of the pedestrian bridge.

Four contracting companies submitted bids to build the pedestrian bridge. The lowest bid, at $1,169,000, came from Baltimore-based Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. Bids were opened Thursday night, Hayes said.

Hayes said the bid came in at around the amount he had expected.

A portion of a $2.75 million grant from the Economic Development Grant Committee was set aside to pay for construction of the bridge. The remainder of the grant, along with money from a separate grant, is being used to restore the three buildings that make up the Roundhouse Center complex.

If all goes well, the bridge should be finished by this time next year, Hayes said.

Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. is the same company handling restoration now under way at the Roundhouse, Bridge and Machine Shop and Frog and Switch Shop.

Recently, 35 to 40 tons of scrap metal, conduit wiring, steam pipes and beams were hauled away.

The Bridge and Machine Shop recently has undergone "soda blasting," a process in which baking soda is used to restore exterior bricks. Baking soda does not destroy mortar or bricks, Hayes said.

Soda blasting nearly is finished at the Roundhouse, and just started at the Frog and Switch Shop, Hayes said.

An old boiler room in the Bridge and Machine Shop has been demolished, with the space to be used to house restrooms, a stairwell and an elevator.

A few months from now, the Bridge and Machine Shop might be available for rent to a tenant. Hayes said he imagines the complex could one day be the site of restaurants, shops and events such as concerts or conventions.

Army officials had discussed opening a military museum at the complex, but the war in Iraq and Afghanistan put those talks on hold, Hayes said.

Hayes envisions that the Roundhouse one day might be a starting point for tourists. After visiting the complex, they would be directed to other museums in the city, such as the Belle Boyd House and Adam Stephen House.

Having a museum in a house on Irish Hill dedicated to the railroad strike is an idea Hayes would like to see come to fruition. He also said he hopes a museum will open detailing Martinsburg's role in the Civil War.

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