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Bridge work will be extensive

by Audrey Thomasson

Three projects are in the works for 2009 to improve the Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge linking Lancaster and Middlesex counties.

Fredericksburg district administrator David Ogle announced at a bridge 50th anniversary event last Sunday that the Virginia Department of Transportation is planning to resurface the bridge roadway, repaint the steel and replace some secondary bracing members under the bridge that are rusting.

Bridge engineer Gary Shelor explained the steel portions to be replaced are for wind-bracing and are not load-bearing.

Ogle said the replacements were suggested following recent bridge inspections.

To keep paint from falling into the river, parts of the bridge will be enclosed in a tent-like structure while old paint is removed and new paint is applied, said Ogle. The total process is expected to cost about $47 million. A special $20 million allocation has been made toward painting as well as some construction costs.

Ogle said the total cost for all three maintenance projects is estimated at $61 million. VDOT expects the projects will be advertised for bids in the coming weeks.

“Even if we were to build a new bridge, we would have to maintain the current bridge until the new one is constructed,” Ogle said.

It [replacing the bridge] will be a long process and citizens should continue to contact their delegates and representatives on the issue, he said.

“Estimates to replace the bridge today are $200 million,” and are expected to increase substantially by the time a new bridge could be completed, he said.

Ogle said replacement of the bridge is warranted when the traffic count reaches 20,000 vehicles a day. He reported that the latest estimates show the bridge is currently averaging 11,000 vehicles a day.

posted 08.01.2008

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