The Xanthene Norris pedestrian bridge on Hampton Avenue officially opened to the public on Friday, March 6, ending a story that began nearly a quarter of a century ago.
Xanthene Norris herself, the longtime County Councilwoman and local leader, led a crowd of politicians, community members and reporters across the bridge to mark the event.
“We are so happy to say now that we don’t have to run across the tracks,” Norris said to the crowd. “Bless you all. Bless you.”
The bridge is more than just a bridge; it’s an emblem of hope in a community that has been cleaved in two since a bridge that spanned the Norfolk Southern rail yard in the Southernside neighborhood was demolished in 2012.
That bridge, which was officially closed in 1994, had still been used by pedestrians to cross on foot.
Since its demolition, however, pedestrians have had to risk crossing the rail line on foot. One woman, Ernestine Dixon, died while passing the rail yard in 2018.
Kids in the neighborhood continued to pass it everyday, to the point that it became just a part of life.
Now that has changed with the new pedestrian bridge, a nearly $1.5 million project that spans 150 feet, named in honor of Norris, who never stopped pushing for the bridge’s completion.
“We had to fight,” she said, her voice rising above the sound of a train that was, at that very moment, roaring beneath the bridge. “We had to fight.”