A Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) proposal to replace an Opequon Creek bridge connecting Clarke and Frederick Counties is drawing criticism from many Clarke County residents according to one county supervisor. County Supervisor Pete Dunning (White Post) is also questioning whether funds spent on the bridge replacement make sense.
“I think that the whole thing is a waste of money” Dunning said at a Board of Supervisors work session where the Old Winchester Road (Route 723) bridge replacement project was presented by VDOT officials on Monday.
At the meeting VDOT officials told the Supervisors that the bridge, built in 1932, has significant problems with its superstructure, substructure and deck.
“The superstructure rating for the bridge is â€˜4’” VDOT Program Manager Ed Carter said. “The superstructure is rated at â€˜5’ and the deck is rated at â€˜6’.”
The condition of different parts of a bridge is rated on a scale of 0 to 9 (with 9 being “excellent” and zero being “failed”). A structurally deficient bridge is one for which the deck (riding surface), the superstructure (supports immediately beneath the driving surface) or the substructure (foundation and supporting posts and piers) are rated in condition 4 or less.
Officials said that while there was no immediate threat of failure with the bridge, VDOT’s recommendation is that the one-lane structure be completely replaced with a modern, two-lane bridge.
“It’s not going to fall down tomorrow” Carter reassured the Supervisors. “But it does need to be addressed.”
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VDOT’s construction schedule currently includes beginning the bridge project in 2014. The bridge currently serves 800 vehicles trips per day. VDOT’s Carter offered two options for moving forward with the bridge replacement should Clarke County agree to the project.
The first option, costing $1.75M, is to build a detour using an adjacent temporary bridge so that traffic can still use the Route 723 crossing. This more expensive option will require two construction seasons due to environmental considerations.
A less costly option, which has already been endorsed by Frederick County’s Board of Supervisors, involves closing the road while the bridge is replaced. Carter said that closing the road during construction so that the new bridge can be built in the same location would mean a 6.8 mile traffic detour, however, cost drops to $1.25M and construction will be limited to one season (March to December).
Despite the bridge’s deteriorating condition, Supervisor Dunning said that he has received many calls asking that the bridge not be replaced or that another single lane bridge be built in its place.
“I’ve gotten a lot of calls on this” Dunning told the VDOT officials. “All of them are asking why the highway department is wasting money again. My constituents are concerned that the new bridge will promote faster speeds and they’re not sure that they want a big, new bridge.”
“I’ve gotten more calls on this than on anything else in the last three years” Dunning said.
As for maintaining the bridge’s current ”one-lane” design? VDOT flatly rejected the notion saying that majority of funding for the project is coming from federal sources and carries minimum design standards that cannot be modified.
No decisions were made on the final disposition of the Route 723 bridge at Monday’s meeting. A public hearing on the matter will be scheduled in the future.