The Sears Hill Bridge is back home. Nearly three years ago, the historic pedestrian link to downtown Staunton failed a safety inspection, and had to be condemned. But the "Save the Bridge" committee came to the rescue.
A massive volunteer effort rallied behind the Sears Hill Bridge, from fundraising to donated time, materials and expertise. The result is that the century-old span has returned to its perch over the CSX railway, and will be back open to the public in a matter of weeks.
A massive crane lifted the fully restored bridge on Monday, and put it back in place above the Staunton train station. Pedestrians long used it to cross the CSX rail line, between the Sears Hill neighborhood and the city's downtown. But that link was cut off in January 2010, after a failed safety inspection. The bridge was carefully removed two years ago, and has been "in the shop" ever since.
Tom Sheets with the Sears Hill Bridge committee said, "The most important thing we were trying to do was one, maintain the profile of the bridge that was up there, which we did. The second thing was to make it a little more long-lasting."
The refurbished bridge is about 50 percent original. Newly fabricated steel was blended with the strongest parts of the 1905 span. Galvanizing and painting should ensure it endures at least another century. The "Save the Bridge" committee says it couldn't have happened without you.
"We've had donations everywhere from $10,000 to quarters. And it's nice to see it go back, and the community response to getting it there," said Howard Holden with the Sears Hill Bridge committee.
The fundraising effort has reached about $160,000, and needs just over $40,000 more to fully fund the project. That campaign is about to make its final push.
"The idea is, let's get the bridge up, show the people where we go with their handout...look what we've done, help us get there the rest of the way," said Sheets.
The steel steps leading up to the bridge are part of the final phase of the Sears Hill Bridge project. Those should be installed - and the bridge reopened - by the end of the year.