NS to replace trestle by 2012

Published 11:29 am Saturday, September 26, 2009

FRANKLIN — Norfolk Southern Corp. repaired a railroad trestle over the Blackwater River earlier this month, and plans to replace the bridge by 2012.

Robin Chapman, a spokesman for the Norfolk-based company, confirmed Tuesday that inspectors visited the bridge on Sept. 15 and stabilized the crossing, located just north of the new Holland-Councill Memorial Bridge.

“There was a crack in a beam on which one of the rails sit,” Chapman said. “They installed a helper stringer alongside the beam to stabilize the trestle.”

Chapman said the trestle was safe and that the helper stringer “will keep it stable for some time to come.”

Norfolk Southern was made aware of the damaged trestle after Blackwater-Nottoway Riverkeeper Jeff Turner, while on a patrol of the Blackwater a day earlier, saw the crack and took pictures of it. When a train crossed the bridge, Turner said the crack “opened up twice as big.”

“I thought it was going to break in half,” he said. “I hurriedly went into reverse. I didn’t want to be under it when the train went by.”

Chapman said e-mail correspondence between Turner and a Norfolk Southern structural engineer, who said the crack developed since the company last inspected the bridge on Oct. 28, was assumed to be correct.

“I’m grateful for Jeff Turner’s dutiful watch of the river,” Franklin Mayor Jim Councill said Wednesday. “He discovers things that most of us would either not recognize or would miss because we’re not there looking.”

Chapman said the bridge was in the company’s 5-year bridge plan for possible replacement by 2012.

Both Turner and Councill welcomed the news.

“That is great news,” Turner said in another email correspondence. “I seriously hope Norfolk Southern will talk with the City of Franklin and myself before that project begins.”

Turner added “there are many contributing factors to the increased flooding. One way these flood events could be mitigated is if the flow of the Blackwater was not restricted at three bridges in Franklin. When Norfolk Southern replaces that trestle, if all those pilings from multiple previous bridges are (also) removed and the railroad bed moved back even a little bit, it would alleviate another choke point.”

The third bridge is another railroad trestle, located south of the Holland-Councill Bridge and owned by CSX Corp.

Said Councill on the Norfolk Southern trestle replacement: “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to be sure that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is involved in anything that (Norfolk Southern) does, to see if during the negotiation or the planning that we could take into account all kinds of flood mitigation.”

The mayor added, “We might be able to reduce some of the impact that trestle has on damming up the river, or catching logs, or whatever people think it may be.”