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Martinsburg City Council to decide whether to apply for funding to replace Oak Street bridge

July 10, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com
  • The Martinsburg (W.Va.) City Council is expected to decide Thursday evening whether to apply for state funding to replace the Oak Street bridge over Tuscarora Creek.
By Matthew Umstead

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Martinsburg City Council is expected to decide Thursday night whether to apply for state funding to help replace the city-owned Oak Street bridge over Tuscarora Creek.

The bridge project is among several items on the council’s agenda for their regular July meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in the J. Oakley Seibert Council Chambers at City Hall, 232 N. Queen St.

In a 2011 inspection report, the West Virginia Division of Highways rated the bridge’s overall condition as “poor” and said it should be inspected annually due to several deficiencies throughout the structure.

“The bridge should be classified as a low water structure and signed accordingly, as the structure floods even at times of normal heavy rain,” the inspection report said.

The bridge already has a 5-ton weight restriction, but the inspection report noted that the weight limit is frequently violated.

In a memorandum to the council, City Manager Mark Baldwin said the city would only have to pay 20 percent of the cost to replace the bridge if it can take advantage of a state-funded bridge-replacement program.

The state estimated the total cost of the project would be $1.2 million, but Baldwin said state transportation officials have said the estimate was based on “a lot of assumptions.”

The city’s share of the cost could surpass $250,000 based on the estimated 80 percent/20 percent cost breakdown, according to Baldwin.

If the project cost should exceed what the city is able to afford, Baldwin said the council could still decide at a later date not to proceed with the project.

Baldwin said the council also has the option to close the bridge to vehicular traffic altogether, but the city would still have to repair or replace it eventually.

Councilmen Kevin Knowles and Jason Baker, who represent the city wards directly served by the bridge, said Wednesday that they both support replacing it, citing public safety and general access.

“You would not think it gets a lot of use, but it does,” Knowles said.

The Oak Street bridge is the third such structure that the city has been working with state officials to repair or replace.

Renovations planned for the East Burke Street Bridge are on track to be done in the 2015 fiscal year, Baldwin said. The city previously voted to pay 20 percent of that project’s cost, which has estimated to be about $500,000.

The state is paying for the replacement of the North Tennessee Avenue bridge near War Memorial Park, and city officials also are eyeing repairs at the CSX North Queen Street underpass bridge.

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