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The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to replace a “structurally deficient” bridge over Totier Creek in Scottsville by 2023.
The James River Road Bridge is a one-lane, wooden bridge with steel beams. VDOT estimates that 1,100 vehicles travel across the bridge every day.
“Most times, you find lower volume secondary roads — usually 400 cars or less — have timber deck and steel structures,” said Brian Arnold, VDOT’s manager for the project. “But most times, by the time you get to 1,100 cars a day, you start to go to concrete.”
The new bridge will be made of concrete and widened to include two lanes.
Scottsville residents had their first chance to comment on the project on Wednesday evening.
The bridge also will be one of the first VDOT projects in the Scottsville area in several years. The most recent projects include bridge replacements on Route 6 and Route 20.
“As far as what’s been done [by VDOT] around Scottsville, there has not been a whole lot in recent memory,” Arnold said.
“Anything would be an improvement, I think,” said area resident Matthew Earman. “It’s unsafe when you meet someone down there.”
The current bridge is at least 86 years old, according to VDOT’s records. Arnold estimated that the steel beams were last replaced in the 1960s.
“[The load-carrying parts of the bridge] are not at a point to where the bridge is going to fall down or a truck is going to make it collapse,” Arnold said. “We are very conservative in our evaluations.”
VDOT inspects most roads and bridges every two years, but the James River Road Bridge is now being inspected every 12 months to ensure safety.
Several residents would like VDOT to expand the project along the rest of the road. Carolyn O’Brien said that new developments and increased recreational use of the James River have strained Route 726, which uses the bridge.
“The road does need to be widened to handle the increased traffic,” O’Brien said. “People don’t re-alize that there might be farm equipment on the road. We don’t put our farm equipment out at all on the weekends.”
O’Brien said that she and her husband often pull off to the side of the road when they meet oncom-ing traffic because drivers often do not realize how wide farm equipment can be.
The total cost of the bridge will be $3.02 million, including an $800,000 contract to the Alabama-based engineering firm Volkert. Once Volkert finalizes the design, VDOT will accept bids from construction companies.
“[Volkert] has done a considerable amount of work for us and for me in the past,” Arnold said. “Now, with any consultant work … everything gets a second set of eyes on it, just to make sure.”
The project will not require any local funding. Because the project is federally eligible, the federal government likely will reimburse VDOT for 80 percent or more of the total cost.
Construction likely will begin in 2023 and last for approximately six months. During that time, Route 726 will be closed and traffic will be redirected to Route 626 and Route 627.
“I think it’s wonderful, but I’m disappointed that they’re waiting so long before they do it,” said 87-year-old resident Edna Anderson. “I don’t know if I’ll be around.”
Larger bridge replacements can mean that 70,000 vehicles will need to be redirected each day. By comparison, Arnold said that the James River Road Bridge should be simple.
VDOT is accepting comments by mail or email at Brian.Arnold@vdot.virginia.gov until August 4, 2018. Comments will be on the public record.