Bridge work on schedule despite challenges

A crane operator lifts this crane pan out from inside this coffer dam at the Morgan Ford bridge construction site in Warren County on Monday. A small excavator is digging inside the dam for this bridge pier along the south side of the bridge. Rich Cooley/Daily

Construction on the new Morgan Ford Bridge in Warren County remains on schedule as crews work into the winter.

Orders Construction Company Inc., of St. Albans, West Virginia, began work on the project earlier this year. The Virginia Department of Transportation estimates completion of the project by spring 2018.

Tim Cooper, VDOT lead construction inspector, said Monday that the bridge is on schedule and that crews have completed construction of two of the five piers needed for the crossing. Workers recently began work on two piers simultaneously, Cooper added, but their construction has presented some challenges. Crews needed to dig deeper than tests showed to reach solid rock – the surface required for the pier footers. Workers had to clean out mud seams they discovered as they dug the footers, Cooper said. Crews have had to dig about 14 feet below the water level for one of the footers.

“They’re moving right along,” Cooper said. “The digging’s been a little more challenging to them.”

Approximately 80 feet of the existing bridge remains, and crews use that as a work platform as they move across the river, he said.

An excavator digs inside a coffer dam at the Morgan Ford bridge in Warren County on Monday. The area is being excavated to construct the bridge's southern pier. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I think the work’s gone a little bit slower just because of what’s been involved but they’re actually still on time, still on schedule,” Cooper said.

However, he wouldn’t estimate when he expects the piers to be completed.

“I’m not really certain because it’s gonna depend a lot on the water, and it’s gonna depend a lot on the temperature,” Cooper said. “It’s very possible they could have one done in the next two weeks but I’m not really certain. That would be a hard guess.”

Crews should still continue to work their way out of the river even if the weather turns wintry, Cooper said. Dams installed around the areas for the piers protect the crews as they work in the river, Cooper added.

The project calls for the replacement of the single-lane, low-water bridge on Morgan Ford Road built in 1925. The new, two-lane bridge near Howellsville Road features a 22-foot-wide travel space and railing. The new bridge does not include a sidewalk or bicycle lanes but pedestrians and bicyclists can still use the crossing.

Tim Cooper, Virginia Department of Transportation lead construction inspector, walks across this 80-foot section that is all that remains of the old Morgan Ford bridge in Warren County on Monday. Rich Cooley/Daily

VDOT calculated in 2012 that 1,876 vehicles traveled on Morgan Ford Road per day and expects the number to increase to 3,005 by 2035.

The total estimated cost of the project includes the construction contract price of $4.88 million.

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