The Franklin News-Post|
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
|Endangered fish still an issue|
Staff Photo by Charles Boothe:
Replacement of the Pigg River Bridge on South Main Street could take as long as three years.
Friday, July 13, 2012
By MATT HANKINS - Special to the News-Post
Even by government standards, 20 years is a long time to wait for a new bridge. By 2014, residents may feel it took as long to complete the new Pigg River Bridge as it did design, fund and bid out.
The old bridge had a great run. A child of the 1920s, the bridge withstood floods, millions of vehicle crossings, nearly 30,000 sunrises, and the freezes and thaws of 80 winters. Now, though, the concrete and iron have aged, oxidized and deteriorated to the point that Rocky Mount Town Council made replacement of the bridge the town's highest transportation priority 20 years ago.
Since this is a major capital project, it is administered by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Over two decades, the VDOT Salem District and Rocky Mount residency staff patiently shepherded this project, which took off after the 2011 General Assembly freed more state construction money.
In the past year, VDOT staff worked with the town to finalize the design, prepare the project for bidding and advertise the project. VDOT opened bids last month and determined the low bidder. VDOT is finalizing the award and notice to proceed, the last hurdles before construction.
During the past few months, motorists had a small taste of construction efforts to come. Utility relocation, surveying, engineers, contract reviewers and other professionals have been preparing the project area.
Once construction begins in earnest next month, expect traffic headaches for three years. Why so long? Two reasons.
First, the Pigg River houses the endangered Roanoke logperch, a tiny fish that causes big headaches for any construction projects near the river. Because of its endangered status, construction projects cannot go on during mating season, from mid-March through the end of June, to promote successful spawning.
Secondly, the town expressed to VDOT its strong preference to keep traffic flowing over the river to protect industry, commerce and residents with continued access to U.S. 220.
To accommodate that, half of the new bridge will be built, then the old bridge will be demolished and the second half of the new bridge built in its place. Construction traffic patterns will change, lanes will be marked, and drivers will have longer wait times while signals cycle. Waiting, though, should mean less lost time than detouring to one of the other access routes to the highway.
Those drivers who regularly use the Pigg River Bridge to head into or out of town will have to be patient, plan to spend a little more time on our route, and be cautious and defensive in their driving through the project area. Paddlers and anglers will not be able to use the construction area while the bridge is under construction, so plan recreation accordingly.
The next three years will be tough, but the end result will be a new bridge that carries residents safely to their destinations, hopefully for as long as its predecessor. The peace of mind will be worth the aggravation.
Matt Hankins is the Assistant Town Manager and Community Development Director for Rocky Mount.