A ceremony on Monday, Nov. 10, marked the official beginning of work to transform a former railroad bridge into a pedestrian river crossing that will become both a centerpiece in a developing trail system and a tribute to the city's railroad heritage.
"Huntington has got such a great railroad history that we want to be able to celebrate some of that history along with getting people in connection with the river and being along the trails," says Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters.
A groundbreaking program for the Erie Rail Trail Bridge took place on the south end of the railroad bridge along Riverside Drive, east of Briant Street, and included representatives of the city, retirees from the Erie Railroad and the Erie Band.
"It has always been a goal as part of the master plan for trails to have it [the Erie Rail Trail Bridge] developed and be able to serve as a crossing connecting the two trails, the Little River Trail and the Erie Rail Trail," Fetters explains.
Plans for the bridge include a comprehensive rehabilitation project with a black finish and the name of the trail bridge painted across its sides over the water.
"This is going to be about a half a million dollar rehab project and it is something that has been in the works for a long time," Fetters says. "The city has owned that bridge probably for the last 10 to 15 years, maybe even longer."
The goal is to renovate the rail bridge into a pedestrian river crossing and possibly add a park on one side to join intersecting trails and commemorate the railroad history throughout Huntington.
"Long term plans are to construct a trail head there with a railroad history kiosk and perhaps an old railroad caboose," says Fetters. "Our goal is to have what we call section four of the Little River Trail go from the bridge along the south side of the river to the west and connect with section three by midsummer of 2015."
Fetters says that these trail projects are possible due to the city's fiscal responsibility over the last two to three years and that the creation of these trails is an amenity that has been long awaited by the residents of Huntington and the surrounding area.
"Trails are going to happen in Huntington and it is really exciting," Fetters says.
Complete caption: With the old Erie Railroad Bridge behind them and a construction crane standing by, officials and dignitaries break ground on the Erie Rail Trail on Riverside Drive east of Briant Street on Monday, Nov. 10. Pictured (from left to right) are Anthony Goodnight, Kyle Hamilton, Steve Winterrowd, Joe Thomas, Miguel Trevino, Jody Schenkel Davenport, Troy Irick, Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters, Mark Wickersham, Steve Kimmel, Joe Blomeke, Jim Dinius, Bob Caley, Bill Lesh and Bob McNally. The estimated $500,000 bridge rehabilitation project represents Section 4 of the Little River Trail.