HOLMBERG: A killer ‘pothole’ on I-95 bridge — and no one gets hurt

Posted at 12:50 AM, May 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-08 08:18:37-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - A pothole that could’ve easily hurt or killed someone on the busy Interstate 95 bridge over the James River in Richmond Wednesday afternoon was quickly blocked off by the Virginia State Police after a passing motorist called it in.

I got a close-up look at it the tire-sized hole that appeared in the right lane on the southbound side of the bridge right before the exit for the Downtown Expressway. Check out the video.

As one who has ridden that busy bridge many times on my motorcycle, I can tell you I would’ve hated running into that – for a the few seconds of life I would’ve likely had left after hitting it. Many thanks to the person who called it in.

VDOT has closed down that lane, and are working throughout the night to repair it. Close to midnight they announced that inspectors have  determined that the roadway damage is pavement failure; the bridge structure is intact.

Big chunks of concrete fell onto the steel substructure holding up the road. But one piece fell all the way down to an empty Shockoe Bottom parking lot below the bridge.

The James River Bridge – three-quarters of a mile long and nearly 100 feet above the river -  was built in 1957 and 1958 and has been one of the state’s busiest bridges ever since.

It got a major resurfacing in the late ‘70s and brand-new decking during a renovation that began in 1999 and ended in 2002. Remember all those lane closures?

That $49 million facelift was finished a little early and was part of VDOT’s award-winning system of bridge resurfacing projects in the Richmond area.

Thursday’s ragged pothole grew along  the juncture of two expansion joints in the concrete surface. Bridges and other concrete structures need expansion joints because concrete moves with the weather, even with heavy reinforcing inside of it.  If you stand on that bridge and feel how much it moves when heavily loaded trucks pass by, you can understand how big sections moving against one another can cause weaknesses and breakages.

You can bet VDOT is going to be looking hard at this section, and others like it on the bridge.

I’m very glad that I got a chance to see it as reporter instead as someone driving or riding into it.

Read more about the James River Bridge here:



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