Roanoke, Virginia – The “Bridge the Gap” project is a greenway expansion project that aims to connect Roanoke and Salem with a paved trail and two aerial bridge crossings over the Roanoke River. The project is part of the Roanoke River Greenway system, which is a network of trails along the river that provides recreational and transportation opportunities for residents and visitors.
The project was initially planned in 2015, when the Roanoke Valley Transportation Planning Organization approved a $7.5 million grant for the greenway construction4. The project faced some challenges and delays due to environmental and engineering issues, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023, according to the Roanoke City Manager.
The project will add 1.7 miles of trail to the existing 26 miles of the Roanoke River Greenway system. The project will include two aerial bridges, one over Barnhardt Creek and one over the Roanoke River near Aerial Way Drive. The bridges will be 14 feet wide and 12 feet high, and will have lighting and security cameras. The project will also include landscaping, signage, benches, bike racks, and trash cans along the trail. The project will benefit the community by enhancing the quality of life, promoting health and wellness, increasing tourism and economic development, and improving connectivity and accessibility.
Years after the project was initially revealed to the public, the “Bridge the Gap” project is finally coming to its end. According to the latest reports provide by the local officials, the projects should be completely finished and operational in the upcoming months. Most importantly, the bridge will connect Roanoke and Salem residents in safe way.
“Basically it connects Bridge Street, which we built this piece back in 2012. So it’s been a while but this connects Bridge Street on up to Aerial Way and up to the Salem border. So this is a big milestone for us,” said Luke Pugh, Roanoke City Engineer.
Notwithstanding the brevity of this particular segment, its successful completion was by no means a foregone conclusion. Indeed, the journey along this one-mile pathway was fraught with obstacles and difficulties that tested the mettle of all those involved. From treacherous terrain and inclement weather conditions to logistical and operational hurdles, each step forward represented a significant achievement in the face of adversity. Nonetheless, with tenacity and perseverance, this seemingly insurmountable feat was ultimately conquered, leaving behind a lasting legacy of determination and fortitude.
“We do have some railroad coordination that we had to go through; we also have a bridge of our own on this piece, a new bridge that we set, it’s 270 feet clear span; we do have several retaining walls; anytime you have those type of retaining walls, there’s always some topographic issues. We wanted to keep the trail ADA-accessible at 5%,” said Pugh.
However, seeing the end of the project was nothing but a huge achievement for everyone involved in the process. Pugh added that he and is his team are nothing but happy with the project now being close to its end since it will provide comfortable option for pedestrians to avoid busy roads during their daily commutes. Additionally, having the project done will most certainly make people consider leaving their vehicles and use bicycles to get to work which will further have positive impact on the local environment.
We’re just excited for the connectivity and a long stretch of connectivity, which is what we’ve been missing in the valley,” said Renee Powers, Trails and Greenways Coordinator with Roanoke Parks and Rec.
The projected is expected to be completed just in time for the summer season. Latest reports indicate that by late spring, or early summer, local residents can enjoy all the benefits of the Roanoke River Greenway’s 10-mile continuous stretch.