By Alex Bridges
WOODSTOCK - Some Shenandoah County leaders question the commonwealth's plan to replace a low-water bridge north of Woodstock.
The Virginia Department of Transportation intends to build a new, one-lane bridge on Artz Road crossing the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. Edwin Z. "Ed" Carter, assistant residency administrator for VDOT's Edinburg office, updated the Board of Supervisors on the project at its Thursday work session.
Design plans call for VDOT to replace the existing, one-lane bridge with a similar span approximately 18 feet downstream from the current structure, Carter said. VDOT is asking the board to approve a resolution requesting a design waiver to allow the state to build a 16-foot-wide, one-lane bridge.
The dead-end route provides transportation for approximately 25 property owners, according to county information. The majority of the land remains family-owned with no immediate plans for development. An average of 210 vehicles travel Artz Road each day.
A one-lane bridge would cost approximately $1.78 million compared to $2.28 million for the two-lane crossing, Carter said. A two-lane bridge would require VDOT to procure more land from adjacent property owners for the part of the road approaching the crossing. Plans call for VDOT to create a paved area at the bridge to accommodate traffic stopping to let oncoming vehicles cross.
By meeting guidelines the project would qualify for federal funding that covers 80 percent of the cost.
If the board accepts the one-lane bridge plan, VDOT would begin the process to acquire rights-of-way. VDOT plans to hold a public hearing on the bridge project in the spring. The agency could advertise the project in March 2016, Carter said.
VDOT could build a one-lane bridge no more than two feet higher than current span to avoid affecting the 100-year flood plain upstream. The restriction limits the impact when the bridge floods and clogs with debris, Carter explained.
"The bridge is still going to flood," Carter said.
Supervisor Sharon Baroncelli voiced opposition to replacing the bridge.
"Why should we spend that money and it doesn't solve [the problem]?" Baroncelli asked.
"The bridge is being replaced not because of the flooding effect as much as its deteriorated state," Carter said.
The bridge's structural ratings fall below acceptable levels, Carter said. Should the bridge's condition deteriorate much further, VDOT would have to close the span.
Supervisor David Ferguson asked about the potential development of property east of the bridge and any increased traffic that could require VDOT to make the span two lanes. Carter said VDOT tries to plan bridges to last decades.
Director of the Office of Community Development Brandon Davis provided data on the properties. Davis identified 132 lots east of the bridge including existing lots as well the ability of owners to divide up the land. Lack of access and the topography make many of the lots difficult to develop, Davis said. If all 132 lots were developed the traffic count on Artz Road would increase to approximately 1,300 vehicle trips, Carter said.
"That's the on-paper, worst-case scenario," Davis said.
Carter came before the board about a year ago and explained that VDOT would rather keep any bridge on the Artz Road to one lane, given the cost and potential impact a two-lane bridge would have on the neighboring properties. At that time some supervisors questioned why VDOT wouldn't build a wider bridge to accommodate potential development in the area.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or email@example.com