Gov. Timothy M. Kaine dedicated the new Pembroke Pettit Bridge over the Rivanna River in Fluvanna County in a Dec. 10 ceremony attended by his entire cabinet.
“This bridge is a sterling example of what can be accomplished when state and local governments work together with a community toward a common goal,” Kaine said. “There are many aspects of this project that should be replicated on all transportation projects.”
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) worked closely with the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors, the Fluvanna County Historical Society and others from the community throughout the project to design a structure that fit into the landscape and complemented the important cultural resources located nearby.
The context-sensitive design process resulted in several notable architectural treatments.
The bridge’s concrete piers and deck were poured using a form liner that produces a finish that appears to be stone with mortared joints.
The concrete was then stained to match the color of the stonework in one of the last remaining locks from the Rivanna River Canal, just upstream from the bridge.
The bridge piers were designed with rounded arches to more closely resemble a traditional stone bridge.
The guardrails and handrails throughout the project are a rustic brown finish with wooden posts to support the guardrail, rather than the galvanized steel rails and posts more commonly seen.
The new bridge also features a dedicated pedestrian walkway and wide shoulders with room for bicyclists.
Along the walkway, there are three overlooks with six plaques that provide information about the Rivanna Canal Company and the Palmyra Mills, the town of Palmyra and the history of Fluvanna County.
The plaques were provided by the Fluvanna County Historical Society.
The pedestrian walkway serves as a critical link between hiking trails on both sides of the river: to the north just outside the town and to the southwest on the county’s Pleasant Grove property.
That trail network is being developed by the Fluvanna Heritage Trail Foundation and the county with the assistance of federal transportation enhancement grants.
The project also includes a service road that was built at the north end of the bridge to provide access to the old mill and a future parking area.
Other state agencies assisted VDOT with the project survey and planning.
A team from Virginia Tech assisted with the relocation of endangered mussels away from the project site and the Department of Historic Resources consulted with VDOT on methods to protect the nearby Rivanna Canal lock and a wooden crib dam that was part of the Palmyra Mills.
Both historic sites are located within several hundred feet of the bridge.
After the project was completed, it was awarded a rating of Environmental Excellence from VDOT’s Environmental Section.
The rating was based on the work done by the contractor and VDOT’s project staff to control erosion and sedimentation and adhere to environmental regulations, based on 41 environmental reviews conducted during construction.
This rating has been given to only a handful of VDOT construction and maintenance projects statewide.
The bridge was built by Key Construction Co. Inc. of Clarksville. Work began in April 2006, and was completed Oct. 2, 2007.
The final cost is estimated at $6.83 million, approximately $52,000 less than the contract award of $6.88 million.
The bridge replaced a steel-truss bridge that was completed in 1931 and was structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.
Kaine noted in his remarks that Virginia has an aggressive bridge inspection program and “remains committed to inspecting, maintaining and when necessary replacing our bridge infrastructure.”
Also speaking at the dedication ceremony were Cecil L. Cobb, chairman of the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors, Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer and Marvin F. Moss, member of the board of supervisors and president of the Fluvanna County Historical Society and the Fluvanna Historic Trails Foundation.
The new bridge took the name of its predecessor. Both were named in honor of Pembroke Pettit, a prominent Fluvanna County resident who served as a member of Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates and commonwealth’s attorney for Fluvanna County.
Pettit lived in Palmyra and is buried at the family home, Glen Bernie, just north of the town.