Mayor Lea addresses 2017's Franklin Road Bridge construction project

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - While detailing the Star City's successes and challenges during Roanoke's State of the City address, Mayor Sherman Lea announced several upcoming projects.

One of those was the reconstruction of the Franklin Road Bridge, which is already causing a headache for some people.

At the start of next year,  Lea said the Franklin Road Bridge will close and stay closed to all traffic for 18 months. The old bridge will be torn down and rebuilt, which will affecting many drivers' travel routes.

Some store owners said they're concerned this project will hurt business.

"It's a natural thing that you just do every day, so it will take some getting used to," said Morgan Adkins, the general manager at Wildflower.

Adkins said she drives Franklin Road almost daily for work and is not thrilled to change her routine. Her concern is that this closure could keep customers away.

"We might have a little bit of a lull initially," said Adkins. "But, I feel like everyone's going to find a different way."

Drivers will be forced to take either I-581 or Jefferson Street.

The mayor said construction along Franklin is inevitable and that a new bridge is a necessity.

"It's going to inconvenience some of our citizens for a period of time, but it's important for us to make sure that infrastructure is safe," said Lea.

City Manager Chris Morrill said the current bridge built in the 1930s is beyond repair and 25-years past its life span.

"It's the same type of bridge as that one in Minneapolis that collapsed," commented Morrill. "Now, ours is not in danger of collapsing, but it needs to be replaced."

The new bridge, costing more than $15 million, will have sidewalks and bike lanes.

City leaders said it's a short-term pain, but long-term gain.

"It might put a few people out of their way, but I suppose we'll just move past it," added Adkins.

If construction stays on schedule, the new bridge will open in summer 2018.

Also in 2017, Lea plans to continue renovating Roanoke's libraries as part of the $15 million library initiative.

Right now, the Williamson Road Branch Library is under construction and by the time it reopens next fall, the Melrose Branch Library will close for upgrades.

Futhermore, a brand-new library will go up in Countryside in 2019.