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Bridge sidewalks to be replaced

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The public is invited to comment on a state Division of Highways proposal to improve the sidewalk and add access ramps on the Dunbar Toll Bridge.

The goal of the work is to make the crossing safer for pedestrians and compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

New ramps and crosswalks would be added on both sides of the bridge, and a pedestrian path would connect the sidewalk to the Dunbar Village Plaza on the Dunbar side.

"This is pretty much the beginning stage," state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Carrie Bly said.

Currently, the existing sidewalk ends in a staircase at each end of the bridge. On the Dunbar side, pedestrians coming off the stairs are left without marked crossings to reach other sidewalks on adjacent streets.

"That's definitely what it is," Bly said when asked if the project is to address safety issues. "There's no denying it's not compliant."

The division has identified three design concepts for improvements to the Dunbar end and two concepts for the South Charleston side.

The division's preferred alternative for the Dunbar side calls for a reconstruction of the existing stairs and a new ADA-compliant ramp. New crosswalks will be marked across 10th Street and across West Virginia Avenue.

In addition, the division is proposing a new five-foot wide asphalt path from the end of the ramp that will backtrack under the bridge to connect to the Dunbar Village Plaza. The path thus provides a way for pedestrians to reach the shopping center without attempting to cross multiple lanes of vehicle traffic on the bridge.

On the South Charleston side, the state's preferred alternative is to extend the width of the bridge via a cantilever deck extension that would carry the sidewalk down the southbound ramp of the bridge all the way to MacCorkle Avenue. A new crosswalk would be constructed about three-quarters of the way down the ramp to provide pedestrian access to Kentucky Street.

Construction should begin in the fall of 2014, and the current cost estimate for the preferred alternatives is just under $1.1 million. Bly said federal funding is in place for the project.

South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens and Dunbar Mayor Terry Greenlee said the project would benefit those in motorized wheelchairs.

Greenlee said some residents in South Charleston's Spring Hill neighborhood who don't have vehicular transportation use the bridge to access pharmacies and stores in Dunbar, which is closer than other businesses in South Charleston.

"It's not so much for the pedestrians traveling ... but for the motorized chairs, they actually have to get on the bridge and drive across, which creates a very hazardous situation," Greenlee said.

Mullens confirmed Greenlee's statement.

"I do know you have handicap folks that go across to get to the grocery store," he said.

Mullens also said he thinks the project will benefit residents on both sides of the river.

"I think this project is overdue," he said. "It's much needed."

Greenlee said, "I think it's a great deal for both cities."

The Dunbar Toll Bridge was built in 1953, and was renovated in 1977, 1980 and 2007. Though tolls were removed from the 1,384-foot long bridge in the 1980s around the time the bridge was transferred to state ownership, the bridge's name officially remains the "Dunbar Toll Bridge."

Mullens said growing up, he can remember having to pay five cents to cross the bridge as a pedestrian.

A public informational workshop is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 2 at Bridgeview Elementary School in South Charleston. No formal presentation will be made. Instead, the public will be able to interact with division officials individually to learn about the project and provide feedback.

"If you live in that community, we encourage you to show up," Bly said. "Sometimes people point out things maybe we didn't notice. We really do look at the comments ... it makes a difference."

Comments can be received at the meeting. For those who can't attend, comments may be submitted online or mailed to "Mr. David P Bodnar, P.E., Acting Director, Engineering Division; West Virginia Division of Highways; Capital Complex Building Five, Room 317; 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East; Charleston, W.Va. 25305-0430.

Comments are due Jan. 2.

The informational packet to be distributed at the meeting is available on the Division of Highways website and at dailymail.com.

Contact writer Matt Murphy at Matt.Murphy@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817.


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