Elm Grove Businesses Breathe a Sigh of Relief After Bridge Closure Delayed
Following the West Virginia Division of Highways’ announcement Tuesday that the historic Stone Bridge closure will be delayed until next spring, several Elm Grove business owners expressed a sense of relief.
Officials announced the actual closure of the aging structure will be significantly shortened in length and will not begin until next April; however, work beneath and around the structure will continue. DOH officials say traffic concerns are the reason for the change in plans. The project completion date is still set for Oct. 21, 2022.
WVDOH Area Engineer Mike Witherow said, “In an effort to minimize the effect on traffic, we’re re-evaluating the process of our sequence of construction to allow activities to be performed prior to the closure.”
He said the new plan will lessen the estimated length of time the bridge will be closed.
Clearwater Construction of Mercer, Pennsylvania, the general contractor for the $3.8 million project, performed preliminary work and the staging of equipment in a small city parking area between the bridge and Southpaw Outfitters on Wednesday. Ray McKee, owner of the canoe and kayak rental service, said he was very relieved upon hearing the news about the bridge.
“A lot of people feel it will help,” McKee said.
He said he talked to several neighboring business owners Wednesday morning who expressed the same sense of relief. McKee said one of his big concerns was whether he would still have access to a loading area next to the creek behind his business to accommodate his canoe and kayak customers.
“I talked to the construction folks, and they are leaving (open) the access down to the creek area. … So I won’t have an issue getting people out of there,” he said.
However, he said crews advised him parking will be limited during the work.
Kristy Ferguseon, owner of Elite Massage Therapy, and Tim Cooper, longtime owner of Cooper’s Barber Shop, both said they felt a great sense of relief as well.
Ferguseon said the delay will give business owners who are located in the block between Junior Avenue and the Stone Bridge more time to plan for the closure.
“We knew it was coming, but there’s been a lot of surprises,” Ferguseon said. “It’s an improvement.”
She said the business owners were worried that motorists traveling through Elm Grove were going to “avoid the area.”
As Clearwater Construction continues with preliminary work through the remainder of this week, crews plan to begin some excavation and water diversion work beneath the more-than-200-year-old structure next week, according to a Clearwater crew member on the project site Wednesday.
Built in 1817 by pioneer Col. Moses Shepherd as part of National Road, the Stone Bridge, also known as Monument Place Bridge, is the oldest bridge in the state of West Virginia. The Stone Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 21, 1981. Concrete sidewalks were added to the bridge in 1931, and in 1958, a concrete veneer was added to the structure. Since then, parts of the veneer have fallen off, revealing the stone masonry underneath.