Bridge work pondered

Published 12:36 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Town Council cool to complete closure

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

State officials are eying late 2020 as the year that work begins on repairing the Cypress Creek Bridge in Smithfield, according to Town Manager Peter Stephenson.

The project was discussed at an Aug. 29 Smithfield Town Council Committee meeting.

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Stephenson said VDOT was looking for feedback on two options — to either close the bridge for the duration of the project or set up traffic signals that would facilitate leaving one lane of traffic open.

To replace the bridge using the complete shutdown option would take 11-12 months, while the one-lane option would cause the project to take 18-24 months to complete, Stephenson said. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The bridge on South Church Street spans Cypress Creek and is directly adjacent to Smithfield Station, the town’s largest restaurant-hotel complex. Stephenson said the three spans located next to Smithfield Station need to be completely replaced.

Town Council member Randy Pack, who is also co-owner of Smithfield Station, did not comment during the meeting. However, Council member Mike Smith said the town would likely not want the bridge completely closed and would instead prefer the one-lane option.

“We just don’t want to shut the whole thing down,” said Smith, adding that access to downtown is available from the Route 10 bypass.

Stephenson said that totally shutting down the bridge would raise concerns with access by emergency services due to a long detour using the Route 10 bypass.

Town Council member Andrew Gregory asked about extending lighting across the bridge, and Stephenson said he would take that question to VDOT.

When the current bridge was built in 1974, it was constructed parallel to an existing bridge and traffic flow was not significantly impacted.

Also, the amount of traffic using the Cypress Creek Bridge and the Route 10 bypass has increased considerably since the current bridge was built.

In 2014, there were an excess of 12,500 vehicles a day on the Cypress Creek Bridge and 18,841 on the Route 10 bypass from Fairway Drive to Main Street in Smithfield, according to a 2016 report by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization. That’s a combined count of more than 31,000 vehicles per day.

Closing the bridge completely during construction would dramatically increase the traffic on the Route 10 bypass and on streets leading to it during rush hours.

By comparison, there was less than 9,000 vehicles a day traveling along the bypass and Church Street in 1980, shortly after the current bridge was built, according to VDOT traffic counts.

The current Cypress Creek Bridge is suffering from deteriorating beams and is considered structurally deficient, according to VDOT. Just because a bridge is structurally deficient does not mean it is in danger of collapse or is unsafe, according to the state agency.

The rating is determined through a zero to nine-point scale, and if one of three parts — the deck, the beams or foundations and posts — is rated at four or less, then it is considered structurally deficient, according to the National Bridge Inspection Standards provided by VDOT.

A “four” rating means the bridge is experiencing advanced section loss, deterioration, spalling or scour. Spalling refers to deterioration of the concrete surface and scour is soil erosion.

Bridges rated three or less are considered serious, critical or in an imminent failure condition.  {/mprestriction}