Wooden bridge on East Fisher Street to remain closed as additional costly repairs are expected

Published 12:01 am Friday, February 25, 2022

SALISBURY — With more repairs on the horizon for the wooden bridge in the 200 block of East Fisher Street, residents can expect it to remain closed for another year, though it can still be used by pedestrians.

In September, the bridge next to Noble and Kesley Funeral Home at 223 East Fisher St. was closed so the North Carolina Department of Transportation could begin making repairs to bring it up to national standards. In February 2021, council members awarded a contract to the NCDOT to make repairs to the bridges on North Ellis and East Fisher streets. The estimated cost for both projects was $185,758 with another $122,242 designated for additional materials and inspections. The total cost of both projects was allocated from the 2020-21 fiscal year budget fund balance since there is no state or federal match for the project.

The project was for improvements to the bent footing and timber pile, which act as support for the East Fisher Street bridge, as well as the steel beams and timber floor and sidewalk. Improvement plans for both bridges are similar.

Public Works Director Craig Powers said when beginning repairs on the East Fisher Street bridge, additional deficiencies were found. For example, the steel girders that support the wooden bridge are in need of repair and replacement beyond the scope originally planned, he said. Powers said staff from NCDOT recently inspected the bridge and should be submitting that report to the city within the next few weeks.

As a result of the additional repairs, the bridge will remain closed for at least a year. City staff members are currently working to line up contracts for the additional repairs. But the current challenges of high costs within the construction industry create another obstacle. And because the bridge is historic, repairs range from a cost of $750,000 to $1 million, Powers said. There’s currently no grant in place since it’s a city-maintained bridge, but city staff members are seeking alternate funding to offset the total costs.

Powers said city staff anticipate discussing the project with Salisbury City Council members.

Currently, the bridge is safe for pedestrians to use the wooden sidewalks, but it has not yet been filled with asphalt so vehicles can travel over it. The bridge can handle a 5-ton capacity, meaning it can’t support large vehicles. Powers said the city has been working with the engineering department and Downtown Salisbury Inc. to explore proposals for how else the historic bridge could be used. One idea is deeming it a pedestrian bridge, but such a proposal would also have to include a way to more effectively deter traffic from vehicles on the bridge.

Though it is similar, Powers said the bridge on North Ellis has historically been in better shape than the one on East Fisher Street, which is one of three historic bridges above the railroad within the historic district just east of downtown Salisbury’s commercial section.  All three were originally narrow wooden bridges over the railroad and in a setting today similar to how they appeared a century ago.

Sada Stewart Troutman, DSI director and former executive director of the Historic Salisbury Foundation, said by looking at Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and 1860s Civil War Prison Camp drawings, it’s evident there has been some form of bridge presence over the tracks on Innes and Fisher streets since the mid- to late-1800s, likely when the railroad came through in the 1850s. Sanborn maps are detailed depictions of U.S. cities and towns in the 19th and 20th centuries, and Stewart Troutman cited them at some of the best resources for looking at old buildings and roads.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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