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HOLMBERG: Old art-deco Huguenot bridge railings headed to the scrap heap

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–The first half of the new Huguenot Memorial Bridge will open this Saturday, rather plain compared with the one it’s replacing.

The old Huguenot Memorial Bridge was completed in 1950, replacing the old Westham steel bridge.

The half-mile long span cost $1.3 million back then and included a mile of art-deco railing.

The new bridge will cost 40 times as much, and will have very simple, but functional railing sitting atop a low concrete barrier wall.

Crews finished cutting the rain grooves in the pavement Tuesday, and they’re busily taking down the catwalks workers used to build the bridge. All is ready for Saturday’s grand opening of the first half of the new bridge.

Drivers may find it a little tight – two opposing lanes in just 23 feet of roadway  – until the second half of the bridge surface is finished next June. That will open things significantly, making room for bicyclists and pedestrians.

But what will become of the old decorative railing that 25,000 people drove past every day? It nicely guarded the edges of the bridge but allowed views of the river.

VDOT deemed it not tough enough for re-use. There also appears to be a lead paint issue.

Plenty of people would love to have some of it.

Rick Rudisill of Riverside Drive is just one of many who have asked about it. “It’s beautiful,” he said. “It would be a shame to just scrap it” for $1 per 100 pounds. He wants some sections to decorate a low retaining wall in front of his house.

But the spokeswoman for Skanska, the bridge contractor, tells CBS 6 the railings are part of the demolition contract, worth $42,000 in scrap metal to the firm tearing down the old bridge, Parrick Michael Group out of Evansville, Indiana.

The Skanska spokeswoman said the firm has learned of the sentimental value of the railings from people like Rudisill.

It appears anyone wanting to save some of this art deco bridge history better get on the phone to the demolition firm straightaway with a good story and some cash money pretty quick.

The old bridge is coming down, railings and all, to make way for the rest of the new bridge.