By Michael Campbell, News Editor
DINWIDDIE – A seven-decades-old bridge linking Dinwiddie to Amelia County is slated to undergo a much needed replacement, but that replacement will mean a key roadway in the county will likely close for much of 2017 into 2018.
The Virginia Department of Transportation confirmed late last week they plan to begin work on replacing the aging bridge along Namozine Road in the county, with a portion of the road closing beginning Monday, Mar. 13.
As part of the construction, which is expected to be completed by the winter season of late 2017 into 2018, Namozine Road (Route 708) will be closed between Chesdin Lake Road and Exeter Mill Road.
Project engineers note the bridge was built in 1940 and is “substandard to handle future traffic volumes,” with the current bridge measuring 170 feet in length with a clear deck width of 24 feet.
The new span with add ten feet of length to the bridge and widen the structure by another two feet.
This project is getting underway ahead of the tentative date set by VDOT officials on the project’s website, which called for work to begin sometime during the fall of 2017.
During construction, through traffic traveling eastbound on Namozine Road should take Chesdin Lake Rd./Sutherland Rd. (Rt. 623) east to Exeter Mill Rd. (Rt. 611) south back to Namozine Rd with westbound traffic taking Exeter Mill Rd. (Rt. 611) north to Sutherland Rd./Chesdin Lake Rd. (Rt. 623) west back to Namozine Rd. (Rt. 708).
Construction season is well underway for VDOT in Dinwiddie as they are already in the midst of a bridge replacement project just outside of Carson, installing an entirely new structure along Carson Road over a span that was originally built over Rowanty Creek in 1938 at a cost of $3 million.
A portion of Carson Road closed on Valentine’s Day last month for construction, requiring drivers to take a detour to get around work crews.
For eastbound travelers on Carson Road, it is advised drivers should take Old Stage Road north to Halifax Road south to Brick Road south and back onto Carson Road east. Those traveling westbound can take Brick Road north to Halifax Road north to Old Stage Road south back to Carson Road west.
The section of road is expected to be closed through Nov. 14, according to VDOT officials.
With two ongoing bridge replacement projects, addressing aging infrastructure has been a key item for officials with VDOT.
Late last summer, the bridge replacement over Cox Road (Rt. 226) was completed just over a year after the project began. The bridge over the Norfolk Southern railroad that leads to the intersection of U.S. Route 460 was originally built in 1956.
Additionally, VDOT engineers are looking at making key repairs to the U.S. Route 1 bridge along Boydton Plank Road that spans over CSX railroad property. Following a public information meeting one year ago, officials explained that the goal of the expected $3 million repair job is to “repair the southbound Route 1 bridge over CSX property to remove the ‘structurally deficient’ bridge rating and bring the bridge back to full capacity.”
A bridge receiving such a rating “must be monitored, inspected and maintained,” with VDOT citing the Federal Highway Administration in saying the fact that a bridge is “deficient” does not imply that the structure is likely to collapse or that it is unsafe.
Through the efforts of VDOT and their contractors, the number of structurally deficient bridges has dropped in recent years.
In VDOT’s data, only 1,209 of the commonwealth’s over 21,000 bridges fall into the structurally deficient category, with another 3,429 considered “functionally obsolete.” In Dinwiddie specifically, their records show 15 of the county’s 193 bridges are considered structurally deficient, including the Carson Road, Namozine Road and U.S. Route 1 spans, approximately seven percent.
This is significant reduction from 2011, when nearly 40 bridges were ranked as structurally deficient, double the total in VDOT’s most recent data and making up nearly 20 percent of the county’s spans.
In an effort to address this, VDOT representatives said they inspect all of its bridges “at least once every two years, unless there are issues due to age, deterioration, bridge damage, or other concerns,” which would prompt more frequent inspections.
“When we find that a bridge has safety issues or structural concerns, action is immediately taken to post weight limits, detour traffic and repair these structures,” officials explained, noting that they have a staff of over 100 people dedicated to bridge inspections and consultants are brought into assist in the process.
While VDOT continues their efforts to make Virginia’s roads and bridges safer for the commonwealth’s drivers, officials continue to sound the alarm about the state of America’s infrastructure.
Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers releases a Report Card for America’s Infrastructure that depicts the condition and performance of the nation’s infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card by assigning letter grades to each type of infrastructure.
While the 2017 grades are expected later this month, their most recent analysis gave a scathing review of the nation’s infrastructure, including bridges.
Giving America a “C+,” the organization reports “one in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient,” while the average age of the nation’s over 607,000 bridges is currently 42 years and concerns grow over the deterioration of metropolitan bridges outpacing rural structures, with approximately “210 million trips are taken daily across deficient bridges in the nation’s 102 largest metropolitan regions.”
“The health of our nation’s bridges is directly tied to the nation’s ability to compete in a global marketplace,” officials said. “Therefore, it is of growing concern that the bridges in our nation’s metropolitan areas, which are an indispensable link for both millions of commuters and freight on a daily basis, are decaying more rapidly than our rural bridges.”
Similar to the trends seen in Dinwiddie, as of 2013’s report, the percentage of functionally obsolete or structurally deficient bridges has slowly declined over the past decade, the society discovered, citing efforts prioritizing repairs and replacements. The challenge comes as the bridges in America continue to age, given tighter purse strings facing communities, particularly in rural communities, keeping up maintenance and repairs to the structures.
“The Federal Highway Administration calculates that more than 30 percent of existing bridges have exceeded their 50-year design life, meaning that maintenance, repair, and rehabilitation programs will still require significant investment in the upcoming years,” the society explained.” Unfortunately, preserving aging bridges while replacing deficient bridges is a significant challenge for cash-strapped state and local governments to manage.”
One way VDOT is dealing with that challenge is through the State of Good Repair Program, which allocates funds to reconstruction and replacement of structurally deficient state and locally owned bridges, along with “reconstruction and rehabilitation of pavement on the Interstate System and primary state highway system determined to be deteriorated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, including municipality-maintained primary extensions.”
Over $171 million in funds has been allocated toward the program in VDOT’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget, with the agency receiving other federal dollars toward bridge and road maintenance.
Copyright 2017 by Womack Publishing