Plywood can be seen underneath the bridge. Credit: Credit: Lauren Kaminski, Charlottesville Tomorrow

After two unsuccessful requests for proposals, Charlottesville’s Dairy Road bridge will enter a third bidding process within the next month for needed repairs.

“Driving up and down the [U.S.] 250 Bypass, you can’t help but see the plywood underneath and that’s there to keep concrete from falling down on cars,” City Councilor Bob Fenwick said.

The bridge has struggled to attract viable bids for maintenance and painting, among other aspects.

“The previous bids have been unsuccessful for various reasons, primarily scheduling and the fact that it is a relatively small project,” City Engineer Marty Silman said in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow. “We were hoping to combine the Dairy [Road] bridge with another bridge repair project to make it more enticing for contractors, but after reviewing the costs of other bridge needs, we determined there isn’t enough money in the current budget to perform more than one bridge repair at this time.”

A recent cost estimate from January projected that repairs to the Dairy Road bridge would cost about $250,000.

City Director of Neighborhood Development Services Alex Ikefuna said it’s not unusual for a project like this to go through multiple bidding processes, but noted the impact of larger infrastructure projects on the ability of the city to attract contractors.

The Dairy Road Bridge is small compared to multi-million dollar projects on U.S. 29, such as the $69-million Rio Road grade-separated intersection and the $54.5 million extension of Berkmar Drive.

“The [U.S.] 29 project and UVa projects have huge price values and sucked up the local contractors that are usually available for such projects,” Ikefuna said in an email.

Fenwick agreed.

“The first time [Ikefuna] sent [the bid] out, nobody responded because of Rio-29. All the guys wanted to be working there — it was good money,” Fenwick said. “Nobody wanted to bid on this bridge.”

The bridge has a sufficiency rating of 14.8 out of 100. Several factors are taken into account for this rating, including structural adequacy, average daily traffic, road width and traffic safety features.

Plywood has been added to the bridge to prevent debris from falling off.

Despite the low sufficiency rating, Silman cautions that it is “not necessarily” a threat to public safety.

“The sufficiency rating isn’t solely indicative of the structural condition of the bridge,” Silman said. “It is a prioritization tool to allocate funds.”

Agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration and state departments of transportation use these ratings to compare projects.

Silman said the city will open it to bids within the next month but will allow the project to be completed over a longer period of time.

“While it’s only anticipated to take a few months to perform the work, a larger window of construction will hopefully allow contractors to work it in around their other projects, which should make it a little more attractive,” Silman said.

“I’m hoping that people will bid,” Fenwick said. “The longer you keep it like this, the more intricate the repair would be.”