Woodland Cemetery Bridge almost finished

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 26, 2003

It is almost over -- hopefully.

Ohio Department of Transportation officials say work on the new Woodland Cemetery Bridge should be completed by mid-May. The long wait appears to be only a couple of weeks away.

ODOT District 9 spokeswoman Kathleen Fuller said the contractors have begun paving the bridge, and this phase of the project should only take two or three days to complete.

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Contractors spent last week laying the base course for the structure, Fuller said. Early next week they are expected to lay the intermediate and surface courses.

"After the contractors finish the paving, they will have to stripe the bridge, install fence, seed and mulch as part of the finishing work," Fuller said. "Like all things with outside construction, though, the schedule is weather permitting."

In addition to a new bridge, those who visit the cemetery will find other changes as well. Woodland Cemetery trustee Jesse Roberts said that while the new bridge was being built, the cemetery board also made updates to the cemetery's entrance. Curbs and flower beds have replaced old shrubbery that used to adorn the entrance. New sidewalks have been installed. The old wrought iron gates are being stripped and repainted as well.

"We didn't do this just for esthetics, we wanted to make updates that would last for 50 or 60 years. We thought that this wouldn't happen again in our lifetime and we wanted to do it right. We haven't cut any corners. And all of the work that has been done has been done with longevity in mind."

The new bridge and new changes to the entrance are a welcome sight for area residents who have had to use the Coal Grove entrance during funerals and to visit loved ones' graves.

A new bridge will also make the Patriot's Path and the Soldier's Section more accessible for the annual cemetery service during the Memorial Day weekend.

"We work with the cemetery employees to put up flags in the cemetery and on the bridge and this will make it easier to do this," Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade Grand Marshal Marsha Kerns said. "And it makes it easier to reach the soldier's section."

The old bridge was closed to traffic in June 1999 due to its age and general condition. Armstrong Steel Erectors, Inc., of Newark was the contractor for the $1,186,710.40 project.

Construction of the new structure began May 30, 2002, and was scheduled to be completed last fall. However, bad weather delayed completion of the work.

The new bridge has concrete piers and a concrete span -- an improvement over the steel and asphalt design of the old structure. It will also be longer, wider and higher that than current one -- it is wide enough for two cars to pass each other -- and has a pedestrian walkway.

The new bridge will also be approximately 10 to 12 feet higher than the old one. The additional height raises it above flood stage.

The new structure has been built to look old, so it blends in with the wrought iron gates and established surroundings of the cemetery.

Roberts said the cemetery board spent $100,000 on engineering and architectural work at the start of the project, and approximately $50,000 for improvements to the entrance.

With the four years of waiting almost over, Roberts said he is thankful that people were patient and bore the inconvenience without too much complaint.

"We thank them for their cooperation, truly, we thank them. We know it's been an inconvenience," Roberts said. "Their patience has paid off."