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State Parks hits snags with bridge repair work

South Boston News / August 02, 2021
Virginia State Parks may run past its six-month deadline for reopening the Staunton River Battlefield State Park foot bridge that links both ends of a popular mile-long walking trail in Halifax and Charlotte counties.

In mid-May, construction got under way to replace the decking and siding of the historic bridge, which was built in 1902. The repair project — the first since the battlefield park was created some two decades ago — also called for replacement of damaged railroad ties beneath the decking and stabilization of the trail at both ends of the bridge.

However, Virginia State Parks has since watched its contractor, Burleigh Construction of Concord, run into problems with the repairs.

“While in construction, we found unforeseen rot in railroad ties that were under the decking of the bridge,” said Dave Neudeck, Public Communications and Marketing Director with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, parent agency of the parks system.

This rot, said Neudeck, required the replacement of many of the heavy wooden ties, which in turn required a change order to the construction contract. This change order was recently approved by DCR and the contractor has been authorized to proceed, Neudeck said.

In addition to hitting snags with the reconstruction process, the contractor is awaiting shipment of replacement materials for the bridge’s rotted railroad ties.

“We are at the mercy of the lumber delivery,” said Staunton River Battlefield State Park Park manager David Gunnells.

Gunnells said the rail tie replacements are a higher level of pressure-treated wood than can be found at a building supply store like Lowe’s.

After work began in May, contractors completed the first stages of the reconstruction, tearing up the decking of the bridge to get at the railroad ties. Almost a quarter of the bridge has been fitted with replacement ties, using the first shipment of lumber. Once the new ties are delivered, construction can continue.

The walking surface of the bridge will be brand-new once the project is completed. The span overlooks the Staunton River and the battlefield site of the area’s lone engagement of the Civil War, the June 1964 assault by Union cavalry and defense of the railroad bridge by local volunteers, known as “the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys.”

In addition to new decking and other bridge fixes, the project will add a nearby concrete parking area to allow ease of access to the trail for those with mobility issues.

Meeting the self-imposed, six-month timetable for completion of the bridge project around September all depends on receiving the second order of lumber. With that shipment in question, Gunnells said it is possible the repairs may run later than anticipated

At this point the contractors have not requested an extension, according to parks officials.

The repair cost is being funded through VPBA (Virginia Public Building Authority) bond proceeds. The bridge is a centerpiece of the 300-acre battlefield park, which also includes visitor centers on both ends of the trail in Halifax and Charlotte counties, at Clover and Randolph.

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