Persistence pays off

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, November 12, 2008

By Staff
Perseverance is paying off for the City of Washington.
In late 2006, the city closed Brown Street bridge because it was determined to be unsafe for traffic. Still, that did not sit too well with some people. Closing the bridge meant some motorists had longer drives. Other motorists still complain because they must detour one block over and use the one on Charlotte Street or three blocks in the other direction and use Harvey Street.
It appears some of them were more concerned with being inconvenienced than being safe. If the city had not closed the bridge and someone had been injured or killed because the bridge collapsed, city officials would have been blamed for not closing the bridge. To be safe rather than sorry, the city opted to close the bridge, knowing that some people would oppose such a move.
In October 2006, the bridge’s continuing deterioration caused the City Council to close the bridge for additional assessments to determine if it’s feasible to repair it or replace it. When it was determined it would cost from about $500,000 to $750,000 to replace a bridge that is not even 100 feet long, that is one reason the city did not rush to fix it. Also, at that time, the city did not have the money to either repair or replace the bridge.
In April 2007, the city learned that making minimum repairs to the bridge would cost about $200,000, according to N.C. Department of Transportation officials, but they did not recommend making those repairs because the lifespan of those repairs could not be guaranteed for more than three to five years.
However, the city did not give up on the bridge. It begin seeking money to replace the bridge, going as far as to adopt a resolution that asked state Rep. Arthur Williams to help secure $750,000 in state money to pay for a new bridge. There was no guarantee the city would get that amount or any money from the state to either repair or replace the bridge.
Some city residents and others who used the bridge before it was closed did not give up either. From time to time, they would show up at council meetings and ask the city to repair or replace the bridge.
Well, the city’s persistence with Williams and North Carolina Department of Transportation officials and residents’ patience with the city has paid off.
During its meeting Monday, the council authorized Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and City Clerk Cynthia Bennett to sign an agreement with DOT to replace the Brown Street bridge.
The project is included in the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan, with the project’s cost estimated at $500,000, of which the city is expected to provide $100,000. Construction of the replacement bridge is expected to begin sometime next year, according to city officials.
DOT’s program to repair or replace bridges in municipalities provides federal funds for 80 percent of the project cost, with the remaining 20 percent in funding to be provided by the municipality participating in a project.
Williams deserves recognition for his effort to help obtain the funding for the project. The city deserves credit for its unrelenting effort to find a funding source for the project. City residents and others who pushed the city to either repair or replace the bridge should be commended for their persistence in doing so.
Because of their efforts, many people will benefit.