For the first time in more than two years, drivers are crossing Roanoke’s Franklin Road bridge. The rebuilt structure was opened to traffic Friday.
At a blustery dedication ceremony, Mayor Sherman Lea acknowledged the headache for city residents. "First, I want to say thank you to our citizens who have really accommodated the project by taking alternate routes over the last two years," Lea said as a onlookers chuckled and applauded.
The original bridge was built in the 1930’s. It was rehabbed in the 1960's and 1980's. Engineers determined that a third renovation of that span would have extended its life only 10 to 20 years, so it was removed and replaced. The new, wider bridge includes bike lanes and sidewalks. Engineers say it should last 80 to a hundred years.
The project had some similarities with the construction of the original structure, according to engineer Rob Dean. He researched newspaper accounts of the 1936 opening. "There was a lot of media attention on the fact that the citizens were tired of detouring on Jefferson Street. And it was referred to as an obstruction-free approach from Rocky Mount," Dean recounted. Before the bridge, people had to cross 15 sets of railroad tracks. The current bridge moves traffic over several Norfolk Southern rail lines.
The city is already planning another big project – a multi-year effort to replace the Wasena bridge. It was also built in the 1930’s.