Fixes are on the way for two structurally deficient bridges that serve as the main gateways into Ashland and one of the county’s biggest emerging developments.
Both the Lewistown Road and Route 54 bridges spanning Interstate-95 will be replaced in the near future as part of two different Virginia Department of Transportation projects.
Road cones line the approach to Ashland from the east on Route 54 as crews begin construction work to replace the aging bridge.
May 12, VDOT workers started on a project that will replace the Route 54 bridge, including both the eastbound and westbound portions, because of age and to meet structural height standards.
“The bridge is structurally deficient and needs to be raised,” said Keith Rider, VDOT project manager.
Rider added that the wear and tear on the structure is visible.
The bridge is currently about 14 feet high, from the surface of I-95 to the beams of the structure. VDOT staff plans to raise the structure to 17 feet, which is more than the minimum height requirement of 16 ½ feet for bridges.
Raising the height of the bridge should also help avoid the bottom of the structure being hit by large trucks; Rider said the existing bridge has several cracks because of trucks hitting the beams.
The bridge is fairly active, as the main gateway to and from Ashland. During peak morning hours, 852 cars per hour travel westbound on the bridge going toward Ashland and 707 vehicles per hour drive in the same direction during the evening rush hour. In the morning, 265 cars travel eastbound on the bridge and 427 vehicles per hour drive that way during peak night hours.
Because it is frequently traveled, VDOT plans to minimize the lane closures; however, the exact number has not yet been determined.
Currently, while the median is being worked on so that it’s travel friendly during the majority of the construction, one lane on Route 54 is closed and will be closed until that phase is finished.
Then, during the second phase, one of the bridges will be worked on.
As for lane closures on I-95 during construction, those will only occur at night, Rider said.
The project, which has an estimate contract cost of $8.4 million, is expected to wrap up by December of 2015.
Then in the fall of next year, VDOT staff should begin the construction phase of replacing the Lewistown Road bridge over I-95.
“The general purpose of the project is to improve traffic operations, traffic flow as well as replace the bridge,” said Carlos Garcia, Richmond District project management team leader.
The bridge was built in the 1960s and Garcia said VDOT staff determined it to be “structurally deficient,” which is part of the reason why it’s being replaced.
According to numbers from VDOT, last year 9,200 cars traveled on the Lewistown Road bridge per day.
During construction, there will be some lane closures during non-peak hours and lanes will be shifted in order for work to be completed, Garcia said. The details are not fully known because the project is still in the beginning phases and not everything is hashed out yet.
Once replaced, the new structure will be 16 feet, 5 inches high, meeting the standards for bridge height.
Currently, Garcia said that the project is in the “right-of-way.” Construction will last for two years and should finish up by the end of 2017. The estimated cost for the work is $23 million.