Cypress Creek Bridge to be one-way during rehab

Published 4:21 pm Thursday, December 7, 2023

VDOT scraps alternating closures in favor of westbound-only traffic


The Virginia Department of Transportation has approved Smithfield’s request to restrict the Cypress Creek Bridge near Smithfield Station to one-way traffic headed into the town’s historic district when lane closures associated with a nearly two-year rehabilitation of the bridge begin in January.

VDOT engineer Gautham Ramesh announced the latest change to the state agency’s construction plans at a Dec. 6 Town Council meeting. Eastbound traffic headed out of the historic district will be detoured to the Route 10 Bypass at its intersection with Main Street.

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Crofton Construction Services, which VDOT awarded an $8.6 million contract for the work in September, had originally planned to maintain two-way traffic during construction by imposing alternating lane closures controlled by a temporary traffic signal. The closures, first set to begin Dec. 4, are now delayed to Jan. 3, also at the request of the town.

The work will entail demolishing and replacing multiple bridge spans, rehabilitating the remaining structure and replacing the bridge’s sidewalks, barriers and water utility components. The circa-1975, 1,500-foot bridge “has experienced heavy deterioration over time,” states a VDOTnews release.

Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman had contacted state Sen.-elect Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, on Nov. 28 along with Virginia Secretary of Transportation W. Sheppard “Shep” Miller III asking for a one-month delay of the start date on behalf of downtown businesses, contending their holiday sales would be adversely impacted by the closures. The town received a same-day response from VDOT granting the delay, according to a town news release that asserted Brewer had “personally intervened.”

Town Councilman Randy Pack, who’s also co-owner of the Smithfield Station restaurant, hotel and marina at the west edge of the bridge, had told The Smithfield Times on Nov. 27 that he and Isle of Wight Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Brian Carroll had started pushing around that same time to dispense with the alternating closures entirely in favor of the one-way option.

Carroll told the Times that 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, and that the originally proposed alternating closures could delay response times.

“VDOT values their feedback and remains committed to regular communication with the Town officials to keep them abreast of the project milestones,” VDOT spokeswoman Kelly Alvord told the Times by email on Dec. 6.

The restricted traffic flow is still set to begin Jan. 2 and is anticipated to continue through August 2025, Ramesh said. During the fall of 2024, VDOT will switch which lane is closed but the bridge will remain restricted to westbound traffic.

For the duration of the two-year project, the lane that remains open will be narrowed to 11 feet wide and be closed to all wide-load vehicles. Any needed closure of both lanes will be scheduled “during the periods of lesser impact to the community and communicated in advance to the public,” states a series of slides Ramesh showed to Town Council.

The bridge will remain open to pedestrian traffic through the start of the project’s second phase in fall 2024, and then be closed to foot traffic through the project’s 2025 completion date.

VDOT uses a nationwide zero- to nine-point scale when evaluating the safety of its bridges, with zero reflecting one that has failed.  A 2018 study by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization the Cypress Creek Bridge’s superstructure a “four,” meeting VDOT’s definition of “structurally deficient.” A structurally deficient rating “does not imply that it is likely to collapse or that it is unsafe,” but does mean that maintenance is needed, states a VDOT bridge inspections glossary.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 10:57 a.m. on Dec. 8 with additional information from VDOT.