Steen wants to name bridge for veterans

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 25, 2011

By Karissa Minn and Scott Jenkins
SALISBURY — N.C. Rep. Fred Steen says he hopes to file a bill soon that would name the new interstate bridge being built over the Yadkin River in honor of veterans.
Steen, a Republican from Rowan County, said Thursday he is working on gathering co-sponsors for the legislation and is trying to set up a meeting with Gov. Bev Perdue to seek her support.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Steen said. “Everybody’s going to call it the Yadkin River Bridge, but if we can call it the Yadkin River Veterans Memorial Bridge, that would send a message that we honor our veterans.”
He was approached about naming the bridge several months ago by Rowan County veteran Rodney Cress, who said it would be a good way to honor the county’s 12,000 veterans.
“We really don’t have anything named after our group of veterans in the county that would be as big of a project as this was,” he said.
Cress, a local veterans’ advocate, sent out an e-mail seeking support for the renaming and the honor that would come with it. “This bridge will be here hopefully for generations to come, and everyone who crosses will remember a veteran if only for a brief moment,” he wrote.
Steen said he’s heard from a number of local elected officials who support the renaming. He hopes to get the governor’s office to help with navigating the criteria the Department of Transportation has for naming state roads.
He called the renaming a “grass-root effort” that has picked up steam in recent weeks, and he urged local residents to contact his office and the office of the governor to show their support.
Steen’s legislative email address is The general email address for Perdue’s office is
Steen said he hopes to show the governor’s office the idea has broad support.
“I think if they see the popularity of this request, maybe they’ll work with us,” he said.
The state has named most of the interstate system Blue Star Memorial Highways in honor of veterans, Steen said. Some other highways, including U.S. 70, also carry that designation.
“The problem is, nobody knows it,” he said. “But with the high concentration of veterans we have in Rowan County due to the VA hospital being in Rowan, I think it’s a good idea to consider that for the bridge that connects our county to the rest of the world, so to speak.”
Cress also brought up the influence of Salisbury’s W.G. (Bill) Hefner VA Medical Center in an e-mail Thursday.
“Thousands of veterans cross that bridge on their way here,” Cress wrote, “and it is just another reminder to them that their service is appreciated by North Carolina and Rowan County.”
County Commissioners Chad Mitchell and Jim Sides both said they support the renaming. Sides said he’d “rather it be named after the veterans than after some politician” or another individual.
“I just think it’s an honor for a group that often doesn’t get as much recognition as they deserve,” Mitchell said. “They certainly have sacrificed enough for our country to be remembered every time someone drives over that bridge.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.