Event slated to send bridge off with a big bang
A watch party is being planned for the implosion of the Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge, which used to connect the towns of St. Albans and Nitro.
A staging area will be set up at the St. Albans Roadside Park off U.S. 60 across from the St. Albans mall. Space will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Detonation is set for 10 a.m. Friday.
If you miss that one, don't worry. The Nitro side is set for detonation at 10 a.m. on March 8.
Plans for that event still were in the works, as a viewing site had not yet been determined, said Carrie Bly, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
"It's been amazing to me how many people have been interested in this project," Bly said. "Usually we don't set up watch parties for this kind of thing.
"What it normally comes down to is the police and where they're going to let people watch from, but the people out there really care about this bridge."
Over the past few weeks, a steady stream of vehicles has passed through the roadside park, St. Albans Mayor Dick Calloway said.
They were people reminiscing about the bridge and marveling at how crews were taking it down, piece by piece.
Kokosing Construction crews began slowly dismantling the superstructure earlier this month in effort to protect the piers, which will be used to support the new bridge. Those plans changed, however, when workers ran into an issue while cutting steel closer to the riverbanks.
The steel in those sections was too heavy to lift, Bly said, and would be removed by some other means.
It was then decided the rest of the bridge would go out with a bang.
Explosive charges will be placed strategically on the bridge in effort to control debris. The pieces will fall into the Kanawha River, where they will be hauled up onto a barge and taken away, Bly said.
She said Kokosing was taking precautions to ensure the piers and surrounding structures wouldn't be damaged in the blast.
With that announcement came an influx of letters and calls from citizens wanting to be the one to push the button.
"People like to blow things up, I believe," Mayor Calloway said. "But of course it's a historic event and people want to be a part of it."
Calloway selected three women to help him flip the detonator switch. Those women are Lorraine Henderson, the wife of Dick Henderson, for whom the bridge was named; Margaret Bassett, who has written two books about the history of St. Albans; and Q.D. Woods, one of the area's "Rosies" who led the charge for a park honoring the women who worked in factories during World War II.
Woods also is believed to have been one of the first women to walk across the bridge when it was completed 79 years ago.
Calloway said there would be a short program before the women flipped the switch.
He expected the park would have about the same size crowd as it does for the Riverfest fireworks show.
"There's a steady stream of traffic each day of people driving down the roadside park, taking pictures of various stages of them dismantling it," Calloway said. "There's a lot of folks memorializing the bridge."
He said emergency officials were planning for the event and working out where fire and police personnel should be stationed. He said they were preparing in the event that something went wrong in the blast.
Motorists are discouraged from parking along U.S. 60 to watch the detonation.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.