Work on the Hawley Street Underpass near Libbey High School is nearing completion - and not a moment too soon for some residents.
The underpass, which supports the Norfolk Southern Railroad, was built in 1913 and is one of the oldest in the city, said Jimmy Gaines, acting director of public service. The underpass received a new coat of paint and will receive an electrical upgrade in August that will give residents a freshly lighted walkway and driveway through the 298-foot length of the underpass.
But when both lanes of the bridge were closed last week, it gave neighbors nothing but headaches. For Annette Downs, who lives near the foot of the underpass at 102 Hawley, it meant longer trips to places like Burger King and the 7-11 convenience store on Western Avenue.
Those trips from her home, usually less than a quarter-mile, turned into a two-mile jaunt from Hawley, Nebraska Avenue, to City Park Avenue, to Anthony Wayne Trail, and then to Western.
"It was a strain on a lot of people," Ms. Downs said. "It was a challenge because you're right here, but you have to go all the way out to Anthony Wayne Trail to get to the other side of the viaduct."
Frank Dailey, who lives at 1007 Klondike St., said he's a walker and because the bridge stayed open to pedestrian traffic, it really wasn't a bother for him.
"If you're in a car, you can go anywhere so that shouldn't bother you at all," Mr. Dailey said. "Now if they would have shut it down for walkers, that would have been a problem."
Mr. Gaines said the shut down was necessary to complete the painting. He said the bridge work was specifically planned for the summer so it wouldn't disrupt school traffic for students attending Libbey. The bridge was closed completely to traffic for five days and then reopened to traffic last Friday.
Electrical work will start in the next month before school starts, Mr. Gaines said.
Mr. Gaines said the bridge was power-washed, which took off old, lead-based paint.He said new pedestrian and street lights will be placed under the bridge, and the lights will be in a strong cage system to helps reduce the possibility of vandalism.
"I can't say it will prevent vandalism because if somebody wants to tear up something, they will," Mr. Gaines said. "I think, though, this cage system will greatly reduce the possibility of vandalism. We will have a plan in place for graffiti as well."
Mr. Gaines said the underpass is actually owned by Norfolk Southern, but Mayor Jack Ford felt it was important to get work done on the underpass.
He said the city asked for permission to make repairs, costing roughly $58,000, and will approach Norfolk Southern about reimbursement on some of the expenses, which are being used from the city's capital improvement budget.
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