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Shober bridge rehab may be blocked

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
SALISBURY — The rehabilitation of historic Shober Bridge is effectively dead, a city engineer says.
And the state has invoiced the city for $171,148 in federal funds spent for bridge planning and engineering.
The federal government will help pay to rehabilitate the bridge only if the city receives the blessing of Norfolk Southern Railway for the project.
But the railroad wants the old bridge that carries Ellis Street over the tracks replaced and lengthened.
The Federal Highway Administration’s “decision effectively eliminates the rehabilitation option and the two-track bridge option from receiving funding because the railroad will support only the three-track bridge option,” Dan Mikkelson, city engineering director, wrote in a memo to City Manager David Treme.
Salisbury City Council will discuss the issue at 4 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall.
Council voted in August to pursue rehabilitation. But Norfolk Southern disagreed and continued to insist on a new bridge long enough to span a future third track.
The city had hoped for a different outcome when the N.C. Department of Transportation asked the Federal Highway Administration to decide whether the rehab plan complied with federal guidelines.
As for the invoice, Mikkelson said he believes the project qualifies for an extension or waiver of planning and engineering funds.
Historic preservationists for years have advocated for rehabilitating the bridge, one of a handful of humpback bridges left in the state.
The city owns the bridge, but the railroad has great influence over it.
“The railroad has a unique ability to stall projects they don’t like,” Mikkelson told the Post last year when the city decided to pursue rehabilitation.
“Even if they don’t have legal authority to prevent us, they certainly represent a huge obstacle to overcome,” he said.
Also Tuesday, Council will:
• Recognize the Salisbury High School Men’s Golf Team for winning the N.C. 2A State Championship.
• Recognize El Latino as the only Latino newspaper in Rowan County.
• Recognize from the Salisbury Police Department 2011 Veteran Officer of the Year Det. Travis Shulenburger, Young Officer of the Year Officer Wesley Lane, Employee of the Year Police Planner Michael Dhooghe.
• Recognize from the Salisbury Fire Department 2011 Veteran Firefighter of the Year Engineer Shawn McBride, Rookie Firefighter of the Year Fire Control Specialist Ryan Tillis, Fire Officer of the Year Captain Lewis Rogers, Medical Responder of the Year Firefighter/EMT Justin Vess, Bernard Penley-Service Above Self Award winner Engineer Marshal D. Lancaster.
• Receive a presentation regarding the Salisbury Police Department’s seventh consecutive accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
• Consider approving an internal transfer of property located at 615 S. Ellis St. from Economic Development to Parks and Recreation for use as a neighborhood park.
• Hear a request to disburse grant fund to Turnkey Technologies, first recipient of the city’s new Industrial Building Revitalization Program.
• Consider setting a public hearing regarding an economic incentive grant to “Project Tree.”
• Consider awarding a lease-purchase contract for $714,000 to SunTrust Equipment Financing and Leasing Corporation for the purchase of a new fire truck.
• Consider awarding a lease-purchase contract in the amount of $200,000 to SunTrust Equipment Financing and Leasing Corporation for the purchase of security equipment.
• Council supporting the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Program.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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