On a cool November day in 1987, the Ronceverte walking bridge was rechristened with the name that it would carry for almost 33-years: the C. Fred Workman Bridge. There was a dedication ceremony, complete with a ribbon-cutting. In attendance were residents of Ronceverte, city officials and Delegate Sarah Lee Neal.
According to former Mayor Joe Hobbs, Workman was selected for the honor because of his “dedication to the City of Ronceverte, and the many hours of labor he has donated to the City.”
In his lifetime, Workman had served as commissioner, mayor and manager of the City. He was a pivotal factor behind the completion of the water and sewer project in Ronceverte.
“The water-sewer project will be finished shortly,” Workman said on the day of the rededication. “I was on it at the beginning, and I’ll be glad to see it finished.”
After the ribbon was cut, Workman and his wife, Dorothy, rode over the bridge in a 1949 Packard. But the ‘Workman Bridge’ as it had come to be known had been in use for many years by 1987. Originally constructed in 1914, the bridge had been closed to automobile traffic in 1968 due to its deteriorating condition, and then to pedestrians as well in 1984. The 1987 renovations were paid for by the CSX Corporation at a total cost of $141,539. By 2010, the bridge was once again in decline. A volunteer project was started in 2012 with the intention of performing additional renovations, however the funding could not be raised.
Fast forward to 2020, and the bridge is still closed for public use. However, interest in restoring the iconic City landmark has never waned, and a new renovation project is now in its earliest stages. On Tuesday, October 6, work crews were seen removing decking from the bridge.
“We desperately need to get the walking bridge back to keep people off the train tracks,” Ronceverte City Mayor David Smith said. “It has become a significant safety concern.”
The decking from the bridge is being removed in order for the wood to be tested to determine its structural stability. It is the first step in the City’s attempt to secure a grant through the West Virginia Division of Highways. Also, even though the bridge is closed for use, it is a temptation for would-be pedestrians. Platforms were secured across the framing so that machinery could be brought in to safely remove the decking.
“We felt like we needed to get the decking off of there,” Smith said. “Even though the bridge belongs to the City, it’s the responsibility of CSX. We’ve been negotiating with them to get this done. The bridge has been rehabbed several times since it was built. And each time CSX has taken care of the cost. That’s what we’re hoping they do this time.”
The Workman Bridge was once an essential throughway for the City, and Mayor Smith hopes to see it be once again.
“Lots of kids and lots of folks going to the island, and down to the river would use it,” Smith said. “Everybody would use it. We’d love to have it back.”