JPA bridge inches toward widening

JPA bridge inches toward widening

As the regular Monday night City Council meeting wore into the night, members of the Jefferson Park Avenue and Fry’s Spring neighborhood associations came out to thank Council for progress made toward reworking a bridge that spans the railroad tracks between Todd and Fontaine avenues.

This Jefferson Park Avenue bridge that runs over the railroad tracks between Fontaine and Todd avenues is due for an upgrade, but should it widen to 78′ or a mere 54′? City leaders and locals took on the issue at last week’s City Council meeting.

The original Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) proposal offered a 78′-wide bridge, complete with three and a half traffic lanes, a wide median and bike lanes. Citizens countered that the JPA bridge needed to have a more “neighborhood feel,” and asked for a scaled-back version that was 54′ wide.

With that came issues: The redesign, though smaller, could actually end up costing about the same due to construction delays and the necessity of adding a separate pedestrian crossing.

Councilor Kevin Lynch said that by his estimation, a bridge no wider than 60′ could reduce costs by $500,000. Jim Tolbert, director of Neighborhood Development Services, emphasized that no federal funding would be available for a temporary pedestrian bridge while the decision gets made.

The lingering question, though, was how Council would mind its Ps and Qs with VDOT officials in Richmond to get the bridge the neighborhood wants.

Mayor David Brown received a positive reaction from VDOT on an initial letter about narrowing the bridge, but recently received a critique from VDOT officials that the city’s language was too “prescriptive” about the 54′ design. The way the city’s request is phrased, Brown said, “might make waves in Richmond or within the VDOT bureaucracy.”

Neighborhood residents at the meeting were, for the most part, happy with the city’s attentiveness. Citizens and Council members bandied thank yous back and forth about the redesign process.

One resident voiced concerns that the process was being delayed, and asked Council to “please be very specific with VDOT.”

Council resolved that Brown would craft another letter, asking VDOT to make the bridge “as narrow as possible.” They will discuss at their next meeting if more forceful language is necessary.

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