Thursday, February 4, 2010

The City of Salisbury Plans (Again) to Demolish Shober Bridge & Build New

The Problem:

At the City Council meeting held on December 15, 2009, City Engineers once again resurfaced what they are calling the "Ellis Street Bridge Project" ~ a project on the books for some 25 years to demolish Shober Bridge and build a new, wider, and higher bridge (reports vary from 4.5 feet to 11 feet - with no architect or engineering plans yet in place) in its place.  This 'Project' has surfaced several times in Shober Bridge's history:

 In 1985*, the proposal was to:

· Replace the Ellis Street Bridge
· Under National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
     o  Involve the public
     o “Avoid, minimize or mitigate” adverse effects on historic properties
· Create a Thoroughfare Plan with recommended new alignment (this means large On-Ramps similar to the Interstate On-Ramps at either end of the bridge.)

In 1996*, the City modified the 'Project' goals to:
o Maintain grade separation for public safety  & retain existing traffic patterns
o Reduce impact on historic properties
o Qualify for federal participation
o Effectively “replace in place”
o Obtain 20 mph design exception (the speed limit would increase to 40 mph in this residential district.
o Amend the Thoroughfare Plan (the Ellis Street neighborhood would now be a major thoroughfare)

In 2006*, the City Engineers resurface the 'Project' with:
· 4 Options (20 mph) design
    o New, 3-track bridge
    o New, 2-track bridge
    o Rehabilitate bridge (note: this is the FIRST and ONLY time this option was presented)
    o “Do nothing”

Each and every time the "Ellis Street Bridge Project" came to public light, public out-cry has squashed the intended demolition of the historic Shober Bridge.  Each and every time the "Project" was presented, the City Engineers confirmed that the proposed construction alternatives would effect historic resources.  This translates to destroying a structure that is listed in the National Historic Registry (under the Ellis Street Graded School Historic District) and dramatically altering the character of the Ellis Street Graded School Historic District.

It is of the utmost importance to note that the Shober Bridge (the Ellis Street Bridge) is a landmark in the Ellis Street Graded School Historic District, added to the National Register of Historic Places on March 5th, 1999.  The Shober Bridge is listed as a contributing structure in the heart of this district of late 19th century homes.

In December 2009, the project was sprung once again, but now upon a newly elected City Council - the same Council whose candidates spoke before a forum of nearly 100 citizens on platforms of neighborhood focus and revitalization and historic preservation here in Historic Salisbury NC.  The citizens and Council learned that:

o The City had lost authorized access to Federal funds for this project due to lack of progress (May).
o The City was advised to complete NEPA process or pay back $171,000 Federal funds (October)
o NCDOT requests a response by February 2010

The 2009 proposal rings a familiar bell:
· Demolish the current Shober Bridge structure and build a new bridge:

   o Select options for building a 3-track bridge or a 2-track bridge
   o Update cost estimate
   o Commit to firm schedule
   o Request NCDOT to reauthorize Federal fund
· No-Build:
   o Make final decision
   o Request waiver of pay back

Public outcry has begun anew!  The proposal has been presented in such a way that it has created a devisive culture in the City of Salibury.  The citizens, mostly in response to Letters to the Editor in the Salisbury Post (, appear to be divided into two camps: Preservationists vs. Build-New.  Several chief problems surface in that (1) little is known about the important history of Shober Bridge, (2) the City has NOT presented the most obvious and cost effective solution for all that would unite the two camps into one cohesive school of thought: 

Repair and rejuvinate the Shober Bridge, keeping its historic character intact, while ensure safe passage for all.

One argument the City engineers make to support the demolition/rebuild option that it will allow for emergency vehicles to traverse the bridge. 
  1. Emergency vehicles have been traversing the Shober Bridge for over 100 years and over its current structure for at least 70 years.
  2. It is an established fact that all vehicles, commercial, private, or emergency, are being made lighter today with aluminum instead of steel, LED's instead of lamps, and in the case of fire response, fiberglass or polypropylene tanks instead of steel.  Fire response can even use light weight foam with water instead of water alone for efficient fire fighting. 
  3. All area emergency vehicles use Grove Street as the access road.
  4. If the City had been concerned that emergency vehicles could not service the Northwest quadrant of the City, perhaps a fire station would have been built there.

Fact: The proposed demolition/rebuild project will take as much as 2 years, during which time the Shober Bridge and that block of Ellis Street will be closed.  What then will emergency vehicles do during this time span? A rehabilitation project for the bridge would take weeks, not years to complete.

The Solution:

Rehabilitate the Shober Bridge.  We all want a safe bridge.  Keep the historic nature intact.  The unique humpback design of the Shober Bridge makes it a landmark that should be placed on:
Salisbury's History and Art Trail
Salisbury's (proposed) Comprehensive Bicycle Plan (
Salibury Greenway Expansion 

Salisbury and Rowan County Citizens:  You have the opportunity to voice your concerns and promote the rehabilitation and rejuvination of this historic landmark.  Do not let City Engineers split your community needlessly into devisive camps when we all want the same thing! 

Beseech your City Council to rehabilitate this piece of historic structure and infrastructure.  Write your City Council at:

City of Salisbury
City Council
PO Box 479
Salisbury NC 28145

Write the Salisbury Post with your request to rehabilitate the Shober Bridge:

Time is of the essence.  The City has the Shober Bridge on a fast track to demolition! The people of Salisbury do not feel differently about this bridge than they have for the last 25 years.  Keep the Shober Bridge as the valued landmark that it is.  Make it safe. Period.

1 comment:

  1. I think this Landmark should be dismantled and reassembled at the Transportation Museum in Spencer to span the main rail and become a tourist attraction for our area where no more auto traffic can damage it or wear it out. It will make a high point of interest where people can view and photo the towns, parades, and trains their loved ones are on. This would give it a permanent resting place to be viewed and used only by foot traffic. stairway risers can be attached to both sides with elevators added at some point for the handicapped and physically impaired to have equal access and use. This would let it serve a greater purpose for all and preserve it for future generations. Sincerely, Paul Sink-