Senator-elect’s intervention delays Cypress Creek Bridge rehab to Jan. 2

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Lane closures associated with the rehabilitation of the Cypress Creek Bridge near Smithfield Station have been delayed to Jan. 2 following intervention by state Sen.-elect Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, on behalf of the town.

According to a town news release, Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman contacted Brewer on Nov. 28 along with Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard “Shep” Miller III, asking for a one-month delay to the alternating single-lane closures originally set to begin in early December. Bowman’s request of Brewer and Miller was accompanied by letters from Smithfield and Isle of Wight County’s shared tourism department, the Chamber of Commerce and business owners.

“We received information this afternoon that our request was approved and the start date for the project is now January 2nd,” states the Nov. 28 news release, which said Brewer “personally intervened with an additional request” of Miller.

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The news release states the lane closures would have posed a hardship to Smithfield’s downtown merchants.

“As Mayor, I know our businesses are the backbone of what makes Smithfield charming to the many visitors that fill our sidewalks during this magical time of the year,” Bowman said in the news release. “I wish to extend a heartfelt thank you and gratitude to the business community for your patience as we all worked to resolve this issue that is important to all of us. On behalf of the Town Council, I would also like to thank Secretary Miller and Delegate/Senator-elect Brewer for their assistance. This collaborative action demonstrates that we can work together at the state and local level for the best interest of our citizens. May you all enjoy the Spirit of the Season as you shop local in the Town of Smithfield.”

According to Virginia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kelly Alvord, off-roadway construction may still begin as early as Dec. 4 but the start of the alternating lane closures had been postponed from the original Dec. 11 date to January. Brewer, just after 9 a.m. on Nov. 29, confirmed the schedule change on her campaign Facebook page.

“For those visiting the Town of Smithfield during the holiday season, we were able to work with stakeholders to push back the construction start date to the original timeline,” Brewer said. “Especially for our businesses and residents, we are pleased to announce this news. Please enjoy shopping local this holiday season!”

VDOT in September awarded an $8.6 million contract to Portsmouth-based Crofton Construction Services to replace the beams and deck in the first three spans of the circa-1975 bridge, as well as one additional beam. As of Nov. 27, Alvord had told the Times the lane closures, which will persist for nearly two years once begun, were slated to start as early as Dec. 11. Preliminary construction not necessitating lane closures was to begin Dec. 4.

Once the lane closures begin, the lane that remains open will be narrowed to 11 feet wide and closed to all wide-load vehicles, Alvord said. There will be a signed detour route in place directing eastbound traffic to the Route 10 Bypass via Main Street and westbound traffic either to the east side of South Church Street or to the bypass via Benns Church Boulevard.

Town Councilman Randy Pack told the Times on Nov. 27 that he and Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Brian Carroll had each started pushing for VDOT to reconsider the single-lane closures and instead leave the bridge open for one-way traffic headed west into Smithfield’s historic district, which could then leave town using the Route 10 Bypass were it meets Main Street. Carroll said the two-lane stretch of South Church Street that adjoins the west edge of the bridge isn’t wide enough to allow an ambulance to pass should traffic come to a standstill.

Alvord on Nov. 28 had told the Times the alternating lane closures were “defined in the procurement process” and were “now part of the construction plans and contract language.” On Nov. 30, she added that VDOT was “actively coordinating with the Town to reassess the project schedule and traffic management plans for the project.”

“Just as the Town’s initial traffic management preferences were incorporated into the project plans during the design and contract development phases, VDOT values their feedback and remains committed to continue working closely with the Town to evaluate and consider further options and next steps,” Alvord told the Times by email on Nov. 30. “Should a revision to the previous traffic management plans be agreed upon and deemed feasible, VDOT will proceed with issuing the necessary contract change order to the contractor to alter the traffic plans.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 11:10 a.m. on Nov. 30 with additional comments by VDOT.