Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Virginia bridge will be wider, have better clearance

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When some of Amtrak's taller, double-decker trains pass underneath the 1917 railroad overpass on Courthouse Road in Fredericksburg, Va., the clearance is extremely tight, the Fredricksburg Free Lance-Star reports The distance between the train and the bridge can be measured in inches, said Rob Shackelford, Virginia Department of Transportation area construction engineer.

When a new bridge being built over the tracks is finished in September 2011, it will have a 23-foot clearance over the tracks, ample space for Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express double-decker cars. The new bridge also will be long enough to span a third railroad track, which is envisioned to eventually be laid down as part of the state's infrastructure upgrades for high-speed rail.

Residents living east of the single-lane bridge will likely be happier with the new structure's width--40 feet across from curb to curb. Instead of the current bridge's single traffic lane, which forces cars to take turns crossing, there will be two 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot-wide paved shoulders. Improvements also will be made to Courthouse Road over 1.3 miles on the bridge's approaches.

"I'm happy to finally see the bridge replaced under my watch," said Stafford Supervisor Paul Milde, who represents the area. "It wasn't built to last 93 years, but it has served our county and our community well. There are actually mixed emotions out there about seeing the bridge go and about that area no longer being so isolated, but it's an unsafe bridge, and its usefulness has been outlived."

Planning work will start this month, but area residents will likely notice construction work beginning in July, Shackelford said. The existing bridge will stay open during construction, limiting the need for traffic disruptions. Once the new bridge is built, the existing bridge will be removed.

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