South Fork bridge nearly finished

Traffic moves along the new South Fork bridge in Front Royal on Friday afternoon. Contractors are still working to complete the project that was scheduled to be completed Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Motorists can expect easier travel across the new South Fork Bridge with the years-long project mostly complete.

Construction of the replacement U.S. 340-522 bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and a new Quadrant Road Intersection at Strasburg Road began about four years ago. The work caused some traffic delays and congestion as crews took one side of the bridge at a time while limiting travel lanes. Crews recently completed paving the road through the new interchange and opened up all lanes to traffic.

The Virginia Department of Transportation likely would not hold a ribbon-cutting or other ceremony to mark the project’s completion, given the logistics of closing off a major highway and bridge, spokesman Ken Slack said Tuesday.

“We should be finished with the traffic-impact type of work,” Slack said. “There should not be any more of the lane closures and other traffic-snarling things that we’ve seen in the last few months.”

Crews will continue to finish “punch list” items and inspectors will conduct necessary tests on the bridge and interchange. But motorists likely will not see this work, Slack said. For example, the contractor built a temporary access road from 18th Street under the railroad tracks to the construction site. The contractor must remove the access road and return the area to its original appearance before VDOT can consider the project complete, Slack said.

“I think in the minds of the travelers, it’s finished,” Slack said.

The bridge undergoes a final series of tests before VDOT takes the structure into the state system for maintenance and officially closes out the contract, Slack said. VDOT officials and inspectors from a consultant likely would conduct the final tests, he added.

“It goes through a pretty rigorous inspection before it’s accepted,” Slack said.

Inspectors test the road surface for ride-ability, traffic signals, curbs and the reflectivity of the signs, Slack said.

“Every component that goes into a project goes through inspection to make sure that it’s done to the standards that are laid out in the contract,” Slack added.

The $48.4-million construction contract came in well under the earlier cost estimates. However, the contractor missed the Dec. 1 contractual completion deadline. VDOT officials do not determine any penalties for failing to complete the project by the deadline until the contractor completes the work.