UPDATE: Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge Now Open

By: Rahel Solomon, Anna Baxter, Jennifer Rizzi, Michael Clouse Email
By: Rahel Solomon, Anna Baxter, Jennifer Rizzi, Michael Clouse Email
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UPDATE 11/01/13 @ 4:15 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After being closed for 10 months, the Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge connecting Nitro to Saint Albans, is now open.

When the road gets rough, sometimes you have to get creative.

"My son-and-law works over there at C and O and he's been taking a pontoon boat back and forth. He just takes a pontoon boat and comes right across straight. He lives right there." Janet Fitzsimmons was just one of hundreds at a memorial ceremony opening the bridge Friday morning.

The bridge was officially open to the public Friday afternoon at 3 p.m.

"The two cities, the cooperation between them, they've both been the biggest cheerleaders we've had as far as getting the bridge built and finished," says Randy Damron with the WV Department of Transportation.

The 25 million dollar project was finished early, thanks to the bridge being built with some of the same materials. It helped save money and time.

For people who live on both sides of the river, it was a matter of inconvenience for ten months, dealing with traffic and detours. Fitzsimmons says, "We transferred our prescriptions to Dunbar. Now, we can transfer them back to Saint Albans. Our church is over here and we have to go clear around."

Leland and Mary Owens live in Nitro, but take their dogs to the vet in Saint Albans. Leland says now their commute is cut by nearly 30 minutes. "It takes 30 to 35 minutes to get over there and now it takes about five minutes to get over there from here."

It wasn't a complete hassle for everyone. Rich Harper owns John's Cyclery right in front of the bridge. He says the closure didn't cause the business to take much of a hit. "It didn't seem to have much of an impact, although it was inconvenient for some of our customers."

The original bridge was built in the 1930s. The last time renovations were done, was in the 1970s.

UPDATE 10/30/13 @ 9:55 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox are among state, federal and local leaders who will attend a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday for the St. Albans-Nitro Bridge.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1.

The celebration will take place in the middle of the span, which also is known as the Richard J. "Dick" Henderson Memorial Bridge.

The public is invited to attend and can access the bridge from both the Nitro and St. Albans sides.

Also from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, the bridge will be open to pedestrian traffic for a community Halloween celebration, which will include “trunk or treats” from antique vehicles from the Nitro Antique Auto Club parked along the bridge.

Again, the public can access the bridge from both sides.

“Having grown up in Nitro, I have an appreciation for how important that bridge is to both communities, and the impact it has on its residents and businesses,” state Secretary Mattox said in a prepared release. “So, it is with extra pride that we were able to build it with minimal inconvenience and maximum efficiency.”

Reinforcing and strengthening the existing piers allowed the contractor, Kokosing Construction, Inc, out of Columbus, Ohio, to maintain traffic on the nearly $24 million bridge while work was being done. That only required a closure of (less than) 10 months while the superstructure was built.

UPDATE 10/23/13 @ 6 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Construction crews are making the finishing touches, and soon the Nitro-St.Albans bridge will see traffic flowing again.

But first responders say the opening won't just be a convenience for drivers -- it's also a celebration for safety.

"Anytime there's a fire in St. Albans or in Nitro, we send crews to back up each others' crews," St. Albans Fire Chief Stephen Parsons said. "That's a big asset when you're limited on resources, as both cities are small municipalities."

Parsons says the mutual aid agreement started in 1999, and over the years has helped save lives.

"Time is everything when it comes to fire [because] fire doubles every minute," Parsons said. "We need as many firefighters as possible on the scene as quickly as possible."

Currently, response time between the cities is about 13 minutes. The new bridge will allow crews to arrive four minutes faster.

"Everybody likes to say they can handle their own things," Parsons said. "But pride will get you killed or get your citizens killed. Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and step up to ask for help. There's nothing wrong with that."

The bridge is scheduled to open Nov. 1.

UPDATE 10/11/13 @ 10:30 p.m.
NITRO, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- When the bridge connecting St. Albans and Nitro came crumbling down in March, so did sales for nearby Nitro restaurant Buck’s Pizza.

“That's probably like two-thirds of our business,” Buck’s Pizza owner Jeffery Hart said. “We were going across the bridge like all the time with deliveries.”

With the bridge scheduled to re-open in several weeks on Nov. 1, Hart is hoping business will pick back up.

“It can't open soon enough and it's been a long way,” Hart said.

Crews shut down traffic to the bridge in January and demolished parts of the 79-year-old fixture in March.

Despite the major traffic disruption the bridge’s closure caused, those at John’s Cyclery in St. Albans say business hasn’t been negatively impacted.

“In some months of this year, we've actually seen higher gross sales,” John’s Cyclery’s owner Rich Harper said.

While the bridge re-opens to traffic Friday, Nov. 1, officials tell WSAZ.com neighbors can walk across it from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 31 during a special “Walk the Bridge Party.”

UPDATE 10/11/13 @ 2:15 p.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Here's a date many drivers have been waiting to hear about.

The Nitro-St. Albans Bridge will officially reopen to drivers at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 1, according to a spokesperson with the Division of Highways.

The date was announced Friday during a historical society meeting for both St. Albans and Nitro residents. The two groups are working together to plan a special ribbon cutting ceremony.

WSAZ.com first reported Tuesday that the project was three weeks ahead of schedule after being closed for nearly a year.

Before the bridge opens, a "Walk the Bridge Party" is planned for Thursday, October 31 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. Organizers say this event will give people in the community a chance to cross the bridge on foot and wheelchairs before it opens to traffic.

Then, on November 1 a special ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for 11:30 a.m. This event is expected to last an hour. Bands from Nitro and St. Albans high schools will preform during the ceremony.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 10/8/13 @ 6 p.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Construction on the former Nitro-St. Albans bridge is running ahead of schedule. The new bridge, which will be called the Dick Henderson Bridge, is now on track to be open around the end of October or very beginning of November.

The finished bridge will be a welcomed sight for the thousands of drivers who travel through that area.

The original target date for a grand opening was around the middle of November.

The construction is moving along faster than expected, likely due to the incentives the West Virginia Department of Transportation put into the contract for early completion.

As we get closer to the end of the month, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be announced.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 7/15/13 @ 10:30 a.m.
NITRO, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The new Dick Henderson Bridge, or better known as the Nitro-St. Albans bridge, will take shape this week.

The first beam that will connect the bridge between Nitro and St. Albans will arrive late Monday morning. Two more beams will be put into place this week. The bridge will eventually have five that will connect the spans.

A spokesperson with the Department of Transportation says river traffic will be stopped during the work Monday.

The former bridge was built in the late 1920s and had gone through a lot of wear and tear over the decades. It was demolished earlier this year.

The new bridge connecting Nitro and St. Albans is expected to open by November. The project remains on schedule.

UPDATE 3/8/13 @ 11 a.m.
NITRO, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Memories are all that's left of the Nitro-St. Albans bridge.

The final piece of the bridge was demolished on Friday.

Jessica Taylor, 9, of Nitro, Thomas Walls, 92, a World War II Veteran, better known as "Frosty," had the honor of pushing the button that set off the explosion.

Hundreds lined up to get a good view of the demolition.

Taylor’s name was selected to be a part of history during a raffle sponsored by Nitro City Council.

"I did it, i did it," Taylor said as the bridge came down.

Walls says he has a lot of memories with this bridge.

"I got a kick out of it. It's actually nothing new to me. I was in a bomb in the Airforce. It brings back old memories," Walls said.

The St. Albans side of the bridge was blown up last week.

In February, crews began cutting sections of the bridge and lowering them onto a barge to be shipped to a Kokosing company scrapyard. But officials said the remaining pieces were too heavy and decided to use explosives to blast them apart.

The former bridge was built in the late 1920s and had gone through a lot of wear and tear over the decades.

The new bridge connecting Nitro and St. Albans is expected to open by November.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 3/8/13 @ 8 a.m.
NITRO, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The last section of the Nitro-St. Albans bridge will be demolished Friday.

This time it's the Nitro side of the Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge. Hundreds came out last Friday to see the St. Albans side of the bridge blown up.

The demolition starts at 10 a.m. If you want to watch the bridge come down, there are two viewing areas set up. One viewing area is at Roadside Park in St. Albans and the other is located near Center Street just off Route 25.

At 8:30 a.m. Friday, Center Street will close to traffic. Then, at 9:30 a.m. Main Avenue at Holly Street will shut down.

Nitro Elementary student Jessica Taylor and a World War II Veteran will push the button to blow up the bridge.

In February, crews began cutting sections of the bridge and lowering them onto a barge to be shipped to a Kokosing company scrapyard. But officials had said the remaining pieces were too heavy and decided to shoot explosives to blast them apart.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 3/1/13 @ 7:15 p.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Only a small fragment of the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge still stands. The St. Albans portion was blown up early Friday morning.

Three women pulled the lever that set off the explosives. One of those women, Q.D. Wood, was among the first to cross the bridge when it opened 79 years ago.

"It was just amazing to think about how many times I had gone across that bridge," Wood said.

Wood first crossed the bridge with the assistance of her red wagon. She told WSAZ.com her older brother pulled her to the bridge and the two walked across together.

Since first crossing the bridge, Wood has been involved in local and state politics. She said one of her greatest accomplishments is being involved with the Rosie the Riveter group.

Rosie the Riveters worked in factories during World War II producing war supplies like bombs. Wood was featured on NBC's The Today Show because of her involvement with the group.

Despite all the accomplishments, Wood said being involved with the implosion Friday was very dear to her heart.

"Well, it's here in St. Albans so it's special," Wood said.

The Nitro portion of the bridge will be detonated at 10 a.m. March 8. The Department of Transportation said the new bridge will be complete by November.

Wood plans on attending both events.

UPDATE 3/1/13 @ 8:15 a.m.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. (WSAZ & AP) -- An aging bridge that connects St. Albans and Nitro was blasted apart with explosives Friday morning.

The Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge was demolished at 10 a.m. Friday. The bridge used to span the Kanawha River is being replaced by a new bridge.

In February, crews began cutting sections of the bridge and lowering them onto a barge to be shipped to a Kokosing company scrapyard. But officials had said the remaining pieces were too heavy and decided to shoot explosives to blast them apart.

Because the demolition drew lot of interest, the West Virginia Department of Transportation held a watch party at the St. Albans Roadside Park off U.S. 60. Dozens of people lined Route 60 to see part of the bridge come down.

At 9:55 a.m., police shut down traffic on Route 60 at the intersections of 4th Street and 2nd Street. Part of 3rd Street was also closed.

The 79-year-old bridge's Nitro side is set for implosion on March 8.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 2/14/13
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There has been a big change of plans for the demolition of the St. Albans-Nitro Bridge.

For the past month, crews have been working to cut the bridge into sections and ship it out.

However, The Division of Highways says the rest of the steel is too heavy to lift, so it will have to be blasted.

The St. Albans side of the bridge will come down on March 1st at 10 o' clock in the morning.

The DOH says the Nitro side will be blasted on March 8th at the same time.

UPDATE 1/7/13 @ 6 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Monday was the first day of the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge being shut down.

Drivers had their first opportunity to find out which alternate routes are going to work best for them.

The St. Albans exit of Interstate 64 had some drivers waiting 15 minutes or more to get on Route 817.

Bill Brown works as a delivery man for an auto parts store. He says the traffic slowed him down significantly.

"It's been really hard just doing deliveries,” Brown said. “Normally my short runs are about five minutes. Now it's taking 30 to 40 minutes just to make one delivery."

However, MacCorkle Avenue by the bridge at evening rush hour flowed smoothly.

"I didn't know how it was going to turn out on the first day,” St. Albans Police Patrolman Dan Wyatt said. “I'm pleased to see it looks light through town at this intersection."

UPDATE 1/7/13 at 12:14 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W. Va. (WSAZ) – After nearly eight decades, the Nitro-St. Albans Bridge was closed on Monday morning creating a traffic jam on MacCorkle Avenue, testing people’s patience and forcing them out of their routine.

"I get to choose either the St. Albans exit or Dunbar exit, so that's my choices for this year -- but I just deal with it and go on," said Bob Evans as he sat in traffic on his way to work.

The new bridge isn’t scheduled to open until November, so drivers will have to hit the road earlier to pad their commute, something they learned the hard way during the morning rush hour.

"I think it's going to be a lot of congestion -- I take my oldest daughter out earlier to McKinley and there was so much traffic that we were late getting her to school," said Amanda Stanley.

"It's going to be a real inconvenience to go shopping at the Walmart and whatever -- we go over there a couple of times a week to get our groceries and other odds and ends. So it's going to take us about 20 minutes longer to get there," said William McCormick.

But time isn’t the only thing these drivers are afraid of losing.

"Yeah a lot of gas prices and without an economy car you can't afford to do it hardly, especially on a fixed income," said McCormick.

Still, while sitting in traffic is less than desirable, most agree that replacing the bridge must be done.

"Hopefully, come November, you know, everything will be well and traffic will be back to normal," said Stanley.

"There's nothing you can do, you just have to live with it – unfortunately," said McCormick.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 1/7/12 @ 7:15 a.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A busy bridge between two cities in Kanawha County is now closed to traffic.

The Nitro-St. Albans Bridge or also known as the "Dick Henderson Memorial Bridge" closed at 6 a.m. Monday.

Crews will begin demolition on the bridge to put a new one in its place.

If you want to get around this closure, you can take the Nitro exit off off Interstate 64 or the Dunbar Toll Bridge.

The new bridge is expected to open in November.

UPDATE 1/6/2013
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The closure of the Nitro-St. Albans bridge Monday morning will affect the way fire services operate in the area.

Fire officials tell WSAZ.com the closure will disrupt an automatic aid relationship between St. Albans fire department and the Nitro Fire Department.

"If we had to go around [the bridge,] it would go from about one minute now for being in the Nitro city limits to about 10 or 11 minutes," said St. Albans fire chief Stephen Parsons.

Now, the Nitro department will get extra help from Dunbar, and St. Albans will be reinforced by South Charleston.

St. Albans will bring in a staffed fire engine from Spring Hill to help pick up the slack, according to Parsons.

"You've just got to think down the road, 'what can we do that's going to best serve the public but also protect the guys and give them some backup?'" Parsons said.

Officials say the changes will not affect response time for emergencies.

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The Nitro-St.Albans bridge is set to close for construction Monday morning for 11 months, giving many small business owners around it a scare.

"I was worried at first," manager Charlene Martin said at the Living Water Thrift Store in Nitro. She's proud to serve a small community with her business, but wonders whether the shutdown will impair traffic to her store.

And she's not alone. At the nearby Valley Cash and Feed Store, co-owner Patrice Banker is concerned about continuing to serve her elderly customers after the closure.

"A lot of them don't like to drive anyway, and they're not familiar with the different routes," she said.

That's why Banker decided to start a delivery service this year, which she says will run twice a week in St. Albans and the surrounding areas.

She says she toyed with the idea of creating a satellite business, but decided that wasn't as economically feasible as the delivery service.

Although the thought of losing revenue makes them nervous, most business owners told WSAZ.com that they agree the bridge needs work, and that shutting it down for about a year is a much better option than closing it completely.

"It's an old bridge," Martin said with a laugh.

Banker says she's just looking forward to when construction is finished, and believes her regulars will stick with her through the hassle.

"A lot of people are loyal customers and they already told us they will drive around it," she said.

Alternate routes to the construction include taking the Nitro exit off of I-64 or taking the Dunbar Toll Bridge.

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