From one lane to none: Five-day shutdown of Cypress Creek Bridge begins April 8

Published 6:59 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

A five-day shutdown of the Cypress Creek Bridge will begin next week.

Starting April 8, Virginia Department of Transportation contractors working on the two-year rehabilitation will close both lanes of the circa-1975 bridge that connects downtown Smithfield with the east end of town.

The closures will begin at 6 a.m. and continue through 4 p.m. daily through April 12.

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Currently, the bridge is open to one-way traffic headed west into downtown. It can take up to 20 minutes during rush-hour backups to drive the three-quarter-mile distance from the corner of South Church and Main streets to Main’s intersection with the Route 10 Bypass, where eastbound downtown traffic is being detoured.

The one-way westbound traffic pattern will resume when the bridge reopens each evening.

According to a VDOT news release, the five-day closure is needed to remove the existing bridge beams, which will entail placing large lifting cranes and heavy equipment at the bridge. The extracted means will be loaded individually onto a series of flatbed trucks and hauled away. The April 12 end to the 10-hour closures is contingent on weather and whether all beams have been removed.

During each shutdown, the bridge will be closed to vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

“I do not want any unnecessary impositions to our citizens,” said Smithfield Mayor Steve Bowman. “I feel certain VDOT feels the same way.”

Bowman said VDOT engineer Gautham Ramesh would give an update on the rehabilitation project at the Town Council’s April 2 meeting.

Though all businesses and private residences on each side of the bridge will remain accessible, some are already feeling the strain.

“It’s a pain” but “a necessary evil,” said Randy Pack, who co-owns the Smithfield Station restaurant, hotel and marina at the west edge of the bridge.

Pack, who also serves on Smithfield’s Town Council, said this will be the first of four multi-day full closures planned through 2025.

Pack said Smithfield has been negotiating with VDOT’s contractor, Crofton Construction, to make the closures as short as possible. This first closure, he said, was originally planned to be day and night.

“They’re working with us the best they can,” Pack said.

When the Town Council and Isle of Wight County emergency services personnel urged VDOT in December to scrap its plans to maintain two-way traffic with alternating lane closures, and instead place barriers to implement the one-way traffic pattern, the intent had been to avoid delaying response times for ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Chief Garry Windley said he’d discussed plans with Smithfield Volunteer Fire Department Chief Chris Edwards that involve staffing an additional engine at the downtown fire station on Grace Street during the four-day shutdown.

“This will ensure adequate response times to the downtown and north areas of the bridge,” Windley said. “EMS response should not be affected, as they are already responding via Main Street to the downtown area from Station 60 (Great Spring Rd.) and we have the additional medic unit on duty everyday at the Rushmere Volunteer Fire Department during the closure time.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated with additional comments by Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Chief Garry Windley and clarification from VDOT that the bridge will remain closed from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 12.