Jefferson Park Avenue Bridge set for fall overhaul

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This fall, the 78-year-old Jefferson Park Avenue (JPA) Bridgelong overdue for an overhaul—will finally receive more than lip service.

The renovation of the railroad bridge near Wayside Chicken on the south side of town is slated to start as early as October, so long as the project’s bidding schedule proceeds as planned, according to VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter.

VDOT had pinned Spring 2010 as the start date for construction, but Norfolk-Southern Railroad asked the department to allow for more clearance for its trains, prompting VDOT to revise its blueprints and push back the start, Hatter said.

It wasn’t the first time the JPA Bridge project has been delayed. The project has been on the city’s radar for years, and despite receiving one of the lowest federal sufficiency ratings in the state, the bridge has been repeatedly pushed down the priority list until this year.

It was last inspected by the state in September 2009 and scored a 2 out of 100 on its sufficiency rating, which factors in structural issues and “the level of service provided to the public,” according to VDOT.

Despite the snail’s pace of the project, Peter Hedlund, president of the Fry’s Spring Neighborhood Association, told C-VILLE that he was satisfied with how both VDOT and city officials have allowed residents a say in the planning process.

“The original plans had been worked out so long ago,” Hedlund said, “that when they went back to it two or three years ago, none of the neighbors who had been involved in the previous plan still lived there, so initially there was this tension over involving the neighborhood. But they have been very accommodating.”

The revamped bridge will be 67’ wide and have sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides. The initial plan featured a bridge width of 78’—similar to the size of the Amtrak bridge on West Main Street—but Fry’s Spring residents worried that such a size would encourage nonresidents to use their neighborhood as a shortcut to Fifth Street.

“It seemed like it could lead to the possibility of the widening of the entire road,” Hedlund said. VDOT, city officials and residents reached a compromise on width in September 2008.

The bridge’s construction is expected to last 16 months and cost an estimated $10.5 million. That figure is about $2.5 million more than what the state projected two years ago, and Hatter attributed the uptick to “a significant increase in the cost of materials,” among other factors.

“It’s possible that when construction comes to bid, it may not come in so high,” he said.

During those 16 months of bridgework, a temporary passageway will be created for pedestrians and bicyclists, which will allow for access to Jefferson Park Avenue Extended during football Saturdays.

A detour will also redirect vehicles, and the goal of the alternative routes is to keep non-local traffic from I-64 out of the neighborhoods and on the main roads, Hatter said.

According to city spokesman Ric Barrick, detours will be mapped out for nonlocals on I-64 and Route 29. Meanwhile, local traffic will be re-routed within nearby neighborhoods. In fact, Barrick said part of the reason that a traffic light was installed at Jefferson Park Avenue and Shamrock Road was to prepare for the 16 months that the JPA Bridge will be out of service.

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