State lawmaker proposing bridge from Surry to Jamestown

Published 4:46 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A state legislator is floating the idea of building another bridge across the James River.

Del. Kim Taylor, R-Petersburg, has introduced House Joint Resolution No. 5, which would direct the Virginia Department of Transportation to, within a year, study the “need and options” for a bridge connecting Surry and James City counties.

Taylor’s proposal calls for the bridge’s Surry side to begin at Hog Island, a state wildlife management area near Dominion Energy’s nuclear power plant. Taylor’s bill calls for VDOT to deliver its feasibility study no later than the first day of the 2025 regular General Assembly session.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The bill is awaiting a vote in the House of Delegates Committee on Rules.

“Residents throughout the 82nd District are concerned about the state of our infrastructure as more families continue to call our district home while commuting outside the district to work,” Taylor said. “To better understand the impacts on our infrastructure and environment, we have proposed a study to analyze the potential benefits and consequences of building a bridge to connect our two regions.”

Surry drivers have long relied on the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry for transit across the river. VDOT operates the ferry around the clock at no cost to motorists. There are four ferries, two with a 50-car capacity and two that will hold up to 70 cars.

Taylor said her proposed bridge would be in addition to, not in place of, the ferry.

“Many in our community want quicker, more efficient transportation between our regions while also preserving the historic ferry between Jamestown and Scotland,” Taylor said. “This study does not initiate bridge construction; it simply gives us a better picture of how it would impact our community.”

“We do support a study,” said Renee Chapline, a representative of Surry County’s Economic Development Department.

Chapline said most communities periodically undertake local studies of their transportation networks, but the last study that examined the possibility of a bridge dates to 1979.

“Surry County is no different than any other county; we want to make sure we understand what the transportation needs are,” Chapline said.

Walter Hardy Jr., the newly elected Bacon’s Castle District representative to Surry’s Board of Supervisors, said he too is supportive of the study.

I applaud Del. Taylor’s resolution and her willingness to take action in representing the citizens of our what seems to be often overlooked part of the Hampton Roads area,” Hardy said. “With the ongoing work to the JRB this very weekend the area certainly understands and sees the need for an additional crossing of the James River in the 757 area.”

Chapline and Hardy each acknowledged having encountered some opposition to the idea of a bridge from county residents.

“While everyone may not be as delighted as I am I would just like to urge everyone not to overreact and understand this resolution authorizes a study,” Hardy said.

“Those that are opposed have a fear of Surry becoming the ‘next Carrollton,’” Hardy said, referring to the unincorporated community in neighboring Isle of Wight County grappling with a surge in population from new housing and commercial developments, coupled with traffic traveling the Route 17 corridor that extends from the JRB to the county’s border with Suffolk.

“I envision a more rural in nature crossing similar to that of the Benjamin Harrison Bridge in Prince George County,” Hardy said, referring to the two-lane drawbridge that connects the neighboring locality on Surry’s western border to Charles City County.

Hardy noted his father, the late Walter Hardy Sr., had been a member of Surry’s supervisors during the late 1980s and early 1990s when Surry last fought for a bridge to Jamestown. At that time, the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry had imposed a toll and, while the bridge proposal was defeated, negotiations ended with the toll’s elimination.

“I would love to see that part of his legacy fulfilled,” Hardy said. “A bridge would help manage shifts in population, access to quicker emergency healthcare, economic development opportunities, bring increased tourism revenue to the county as well as help ‘put Surry County on the map.’”


What could a new bridge cost?

The proposed resolution calls for VDOT to “create a draft design of such bridge,” develop a cost estimate and “evaluate possible funding options.” 

The original 4½-mile, two-lane James River Bridge that, in 1928, connected Isle of Wight with Newport News, and two companion bridges completed that same year across the Nansemond River and Chuckatuck Creek in Suffolk, collectively cost $8 million ($142 million in 2023 dollars), according to the Times’ archives. A widened, four-lane drawbridge replaced the original James River Bridge in 1982. 

VDOT estimates the I-64 High Rise Bridge in Chesapeake, one of Virginia’s newest, will cost approximately $409.6 million when the project is completed this year. The work began in 2018 and the bridge opened to traffic in 2022. The cost includes improvements and expanded capacity along nearly 9 miles of I-64.


The need

The bill cites, as a need for the proposed bridge, Surry’s “investment in Internet and data infrastructure” and related “increase in visitors to the locality” and “need for more housing stock.”

Surry achieved universal fiber-to-the-home, the industry gold standard in high-speed internet availability, in 2021 by partnering with Dominion and Prince George Electric Cooperative subsidiary Ruralband. The infrastructure buildout, in 2023, helped lure Middleburg-based Green Energy Partners LLC to purchase 641 acres adjacent to the nuclear plant for its first-in-the-nation combination data center and hydrogen fuel hub. The company expects to break ground on the data center phase this year, contingent on rezoning approval from county officials.

Taylor was reelected in November to represent the newly created 82nd District, which as a result of redistricting in 2021 based on the 2020 Census now includes Petersburg, Surry and Prince George counties and part of Dinwiddie County.