The aging railroad bridge on North Main Street in Hope Mills is scheduled for a long overdue cleanup.
At the most recent meeting of the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners, a budget amendment was approved that will set aside $7,500 for a project to clean the CSX railroad bridge. The bridge is one of the gateways into the town and sits adjacent to the empty Hope Mills Lake that will soon be filled with water.
Town manager Melissa Adams said the late Bob Gorman, longtime town commissioner, was among those who started the push several months ago to do something about the appearance of the aging bridge, which has been a fixture of the town for longer than most people on the current board of commissioners can remember.
In addition to being the victim of the wear and tear of years, the bridge has also been a target of graffiti artists who have left their mark in some places.
Adams stressed that the bridge project is strictly cosmetic, and has nothing to do with any structural issues; the goal is simply to make it look better for both motor traffic and pedestrians.
“It’s in relation to where it is, with the lake coming back, beautification and enhancement of the area,’’ she said. “That’s how a lot of people come into town, especially off I-95. You go right by the lake and hit that big, ugly bridge.’’
The Hope Mills leaders had to go through a lot of red tape in order to make plans for cleaning the bridge, because it’s officially the property of the railroad folks at CSX.
Adams said CSX had to be approached first to seek permission to enter the bridge property and perform the cleaning.
“CSX won’t come and clean it,’’ Adams said. “If we wanted it clean, we had to go through proper channels with them, (getting) releases and that kind of thing.’’
Hector Cruz, director of the Public Works Department for the town of Hope Mills, took the lead in seeking all the proper permission from CSX to come onto the railroad’s property at the bridge and perform the cleaning.
He is currently wrapping up negotiations with a firm to handle the actual job of cleaning the bridge.
Once that’s been finalized, the town will pay a down payment of $1,595, then an additional $5,980 for the pressure washing. There will also be an undetermined fee to acquire lift equipment that will raise the cleaning crew up to the higher levels of the bridge.
Adams said the cleaning project won’t affect railroad schedules as the cleaning crew doesn’t need to actually get on the train tracks atop the bridge to do its job.
In addition to a basic pressure wash, Cruz said the cleaning crew will use chemicals that will help clean the acid and corrosion stains on the surface of the bridge’s concrete. “It’s a very old structure,’’ he said. “We’re shooting to get it as good as it can look.’’
One of the biggest challenges of the washing project will be coping with the heavy traffic on N.C. Highway 59 that passes under the bridge.
Cruz said it will be necessary when the cleaning is in progress to block one lane of traffic so the crew can work safely.
“That will require some flagging for traffic,’’ he said.
Cruz said the town will work with the cleaning crew and try to determine the days and hours when the least possible disruption of traffic will be caused by cutting the flow of cars to a single lane.
Once everything is scheduled, Cruz is hopeful that the whole process will take from two to four days, depending on weather and how long the crew can work each day.
With favorable weather, Cruz is optimistic the project can be finished by the end of January.