Work on South Fork Bridge to cause delays

By Alex Bridges

Drivers who use the South Fork Bridge on U.S. 340-522 in Front Royal can expect traffic delays even before the replacement work begins.

Landford Brothers began nighttime patching on the bridge earlier this week. Front Royal received word from the Virginia Department of Transportation on Thursday morning that the work would take longer than expected. Town Manager Steven Burke said the town learned the work would take approximately nine days.

Patching involves filling in some of the potholes on the bridge and general maintenance along the span, Burke explained. VDOT Communications Specialist Ken Slack said the patching is not related to the bridge replacement project already underway.

Asked why VDOT would be filling in potholes on a bridge slated for replacement, Burke said it was his understanding that any demolition or dismantling of the existing bridge isn’t supposed to occur for another year or so once the contractor completes construction of the new section to the east.

VDOT announced recently the work to replace the bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River would begin this month. VDOT Communications Specialist Ken Slack said the first phase of the project calls for the installation of storm drains and pipes on the south end of the bridge. Temporary paving, or patching, will occur in the same area as the contracted firm works to replace the storm drains and other parts of the infrastructure.

Burke said in a previous interview that VDOT is aware of the traffic issues that arose during the replacement of the North Fork Bridge and the agency has taken steps to keep the town up to date and informed on the current project.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded the $48.4 million contract to G.A. & F.C. Wagman Inc., of York, Pa. The three-year construction project calls for the replacement of the South Fork Bridge and the construction of a new intersection at Va. 55 (Strasburg Road) in Warren County. A VDOT news release states that the project is expected to be complete in late 2017.

VDOT advised in the news release that crews will keep four travel lanes open during construction and will maintain pedestrian access to the bridge.

The current project replaces the deteriorating, four-lane bridge and seeks to address traffic congestion that occurs along the U.S. 340-522 North Corridor. The existing structure outside Front Royal was built in 1941 and spans 1,900 feet. It crosses the Norfolk Southern Railway and ranks as one of the longest bridges in Virginia, according to VDOT.

By comparison, the North Fork Bridge replacement — 1,071 feet long, five lanes and at 2005 prices for fuel and steel — took slightly more than four years to complete and cost $27.6 million, according to VDOT information.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com