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Richmond wants a new bridge. The plan could close the Mayo Bridge for two years.

Posted at 6:27 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 18:27:33-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond city officials said they now plan to replace — not repair — the more than century-old Mayo Bridge. The decision could lead to a two-year shutdown of the river crossing.

While full funding for the project is a work in progress -- it got a step closer on Friday.

"The Mayo Bridge is an important economic driver in our city that also plays a key role in equity, access, and history," the city's Chief Administrative Officer Lincoln Saunders said. "The investment in Mayo Bridge now will make a major impact on the trajectory of our community for years to come."

Saunders, along with other city officials and state lawmakers representing Richmond, was on-hand to accept a ceremonial $5 million check from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) for the project. Warner said he got the money earmarked in the recently passed federal spending bill.

"If all the people who drive over that bridge, 20,000 cars a day, saw how nasty it was underneath they would have -- they would be worried," Warner said.

The bridge, which opened in 1913, is one of 530 in the state deemed "structurally deficient."

Last summer, many of the same officials present on Friday, used the bridge as a backdrop to call for the passage of a federal infrastructure package.

Mayo Bridge Richmond 01.jpg

At the time, officials said they wanted to repair the bridge with a $20 million price tag.

Friday, they said the plans to replace the bridge would cost $80 million, but give it a longer life.

"Whereas the $20 million rehabilitation project was projected to increase the lifespan of the bridge by 25 years, the replacement project will add an additional 75 years to the Mayo Bridge," Saunders said. "Can you imagine what adding 75 years to the life of this bridge means to the residents of our city and your district? It means improved infrastructure. By providing funding for this bridge we will preserve the city of Richmond's oldest surviving highway bridge across the James River."

With the new $5 million, the city now has $14 million earmarked for the project. To make up the remaining $66 million, Warner and the other officials called on the state government to use a portion of the money earmarked for bridges from the federal infrastructure package passed last year.

"Make sure that Richmond gets its fair share of this state money," said Warner.

Mayo Bridge Richmond 03.jpg

"We know that the demands that are upon localities and all -- it is impossible for them to address some of these infrastructure needs by themselves," added Del. Delores McQuinn (D - Richmond).

In response, a spokesperson for Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R - Virginia) sent CBS 6 the following statement:

"The Youngkin Administration has been working with the National Governors Association, and the necessary state, local, and federal partners to discuss and collaborate on Virginia's potential infrastructure projects authorized under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act," said Macaulay Porter.

A spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) also provided a statement on the possible funding:

"VDOT is currently preparing the draft FY 2023-2028 Six-Year Improvement Program (SYIP) for the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s (CTB) consideration. The draft SYIP will identify any additional funding proposed for the Mayo Bridge. The $80-million bridge project is eligible for funding from the State of Good Repair program and from Bridge Formula funding made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (IIJA). Including the federal earmark announced by Senator Warner, the project needs an additional $66 million. The draft FY 2023-2028 SYIP will be presented to the CTB for feedback and public comment in April and for action in June," said VDOT Assistant Director of Communications Emily Wade.

How Long Could it Take?

If the project is fully funded, the city's bridge engineer said it would take about four years until there's a new bridge over the James River: two years of planning, followed by two years of work.

"We need to study a lot in preliminary engineering and the public involvement," Dr. John Kim said of the two-year planning process.

As for construction, Kim said while the current plan would not shut the bridge down entirely, it could not be used for river crossings. He said the city would first shut down the southern portion of the bridge and replace it, during which time the northern portion would remain open to allow access to Mayo Island. Then the newly constructed southern half would provide access to the island, while the northern half is rebuilt.

Mayo Bridge Richmond 04.jpg

Kim said they decided against the idea of keeping some of the lanes open across both portions during the rebuild.

"Due to the nature of the structure, it is very challenging to do it partially. Many bridge replacement construction methods take half of them, while we leave it open," said Kim. "But this one is not possible for that. And if we just do the partially closed, it takes longer. So I think it's a good idea to remove everything at one time and then replace it."

How the New Bridge Would Look

Kim said because of the historic value of the bridge, they would attempt to keep the same shape as the current design but also allow improvements to things like pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

"Currently we have about 60 feet wide bridge. But as you can see the sidewalk condition is very poor and also the travel lanes are very poor condition," Kim said. "We'll try to make the sidewalk so bikers can use. I want to make a little cantilever section so that the people can just stop and watch the beautiful river."

"I have a vision so give me some money," added Kim, to laughter from the lawmakers in attendance.

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