When the Advance Mills Bridge on Route 743 in northern Albemarle County was closed in April 2007 due to safety concerns after years of progressive deterioration, engineers with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) began work in earnest to find ways to restore traffic on this road as quickly as possible.
In recent weeks, VDOT has identified several time- and cost-savings measures that will allow for the construction of a permanent replacement bridge that reflects the historical character of the Advance Mills community almost two years ahead of initial timelines for a replacement project.
The new plan also shaves nearly $2 million from the initial cost estimates to restore this roadway, bringing preliminary estimates down to $3 million. This comes as the commonwealth faces significant revenue shortfalls that are forcing the reduction in spending to meet the downturn in the economy.
VDOT has worked with county officials and community members over the past several months to investigate the possibility of placing a temporary structure at the same location or nearby the Advance Mills Bridge. While investigating a temporary bridge solution and working to develop a permanent bridge replacement design, VDOT identified cost-and time-savings techniques that could complete the replacement project faster — with a permanent structure in place as soon as late 2009 or early 2010.
The new permanent bridge replacement also will restore service for ambulances, fire trucks and school buses to the community. Some of these vehicles had been restricted from using the current structure since at least the early 1970s when the bridge weight limit was set at 8 tons (7.3 t).
“We have been committed to constructing a permanent, safe and aesthetically pleasing bridge to serve this community since we closed the existing bridge due to safety concerns,” said Commissioner David S. Ekern. “While we initially thought that a temporary bridge might restore traffic to this roadway during the permanent bridge construction, it became readily apparent through our engineering and environmental review that this was not the best solution. We can build a permanent replacement much quicker than originally anticipated. And, we can do it for approximately $2 million less than building a temporary bridge and a later permanent structure.”
VDOT crews also will perform significant maintenance on Durrett Ridge Road — the alternate route used while the Advance Mills Bridge is out of service — to better serve the surrounding community. A project to replace the weight-restricted structure on Route 641 just east of Advance Mills also is in the preliminary engineering stage.
“We realize that there is an inconvenience to motorists in this area while this bridge is out of service,” said Acting Culpeper District Administrator Quintin Elliott. “However, it makes sense to focus our efforts on a solution that provides this community the best, safest, most cost-effective bridge. We have rallied our project teams and our federal partners, and we are all dedicated to delivering this new bridge as quickly as possible.”
“VDOT considered all of the ideas, suggestions, concerns and complaints shared with us by the surrounding community,” Ekern said, “We determined after consulting with federal and state engineering, environmental and fiscal experts that the best course of action is to focus efforts on our long-term solution and to find ways to deliver that project as quickly as possible. This is the right plan, and we should have pursued this tact from the beginning.”
Work is already under way to complete necessary federal environmental reviews on the bridge. While those reviews continue through June, VDOT will dedicate additional resources to complete the engineering, design, right of way and contracting activities necessary to build a new bridge.
VDOT plans to install a prefabricated steel truss bridge similar to the existing Advance Mills Bridge. The new bridge will reflect the historic character of the area, but will allow for two-lane traffic and legal vehicle loads that were unable to use the existing structure. The final design will be determined with consideration of the comments received during the public involvement process.
For more information, visit www.VirginiaDOT.org/projects/culpeper/advance_mills_bridge.asp.