Speakers favor bridge realignment

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 30, 2003


There was no mistaking the overwhelming consensus Wednesday night in support of abandoning the present location of the Kings Highway Bridge and erecting a new crossing that connects to Godwin Boulevard.

After some 20 speakers spoke at the Virginia Department of Transportation’s location public hearing at King’s Fork Middle School, a common theme was evident: alleviate the increasingly dangerous traffic cycle on King’s Highway between Chuckatuck and Driver, provide a more direct emergency route and promote economic development.


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Joseph O’Brian, who lives off of Kings Highway, was one of the speakers who looked at it from a safety standpoint.

By having the bridge realigned to connect to Five Mile Road and Godwin Boulevard, it would allow area residents to get to &uot;Obici Hospital quicker…It could be the difference between life and death,&uot; O’Brian said.

Bill Giermack, chief executive officer of Obici Hospital, echoed the common support for realigning the bridge because it would &uot;allow for better access and faster travel time&uot; to the hospital on Godwin Boulevard.

Sandra Johnston supports realignment because it facilitates &uot;convenient access across the northeast development corridor and Route 10 corridor,&uot; she said. Just as other speakers to follow, she referenced protecting the historical integrity of the Chuckatuck and Driver villages by alleviating any further infringement on adjoining property, which would be required to rebuild the bridge in its present location.

Growth is &uot;inevitable&uot; in Suffolk, stressed Connie Brandon, who added that &uot;every effort possible should be used to control growth&uot; by offsetting potentially increased traffic levels on Kings Highway.

&uot;It’s clear that realignment is the best choice,&uot; stressed David Levin of Bridge Point Road off Kings Highway.

Enhancing the capacity of the current bridge, which VDOT has labeled &uot;functionally obsolete and structurally deficient,&uot; would only encourage more tractor-trailers and increased vehicular traffic on the winding two-lane stretch, many residents believe.

The 2.2 mile realignment would span the Nansemond River in an east-west direction approximately 1 mile upstream of the existing bridge, connecting Kings Highway at the southern end at Glebe Point to the intersection of Five Mile Road and Route 10/Godwin Boulevard.

Suffolk City Council unanimously supports realignment due to its anticipated positive impact on its smart growth initiatives. According to Public Works Director Eric Nielson, who appeared at the hearing last night, there have been &uot;many hurdles&uot; over the past three years, but the entities have successfully dealt with wetland issues, cultural resources and funding. Nielson called the realignment a &uot;great out-of-the-box&uot; approach, which was proposed by a citizen 18 months ago.

Mayor E. Dana Dickens followed up and reinforcing the council’s support for realignment last night. Keeping the bridge in the present location &uot;does not support the long-range plans that we are trying to accomplish.&uot;

A letter from Delegate S. Chris Jones supporting realignment was also read into the record last night.

Mac McBridge called the current structure a &uot;bridge to nowhere,&uot; while changing the location would allow it to become &uot;a bridge to somewhere.&uot;

While he’s &uot;tossed-up&uot; about realignment, Jack Kelly cautioned that if it becomes the final answer, VDOT and the city should ensure that appropriate turn lanes and traffic lights are implemented for safety on Route 10.

Despite the majority support for realignment, not everyone is happy.

Frank Daniels of Godwin Boulevard called relocating the bridge &uot;a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.&uot;

Sherwood Harrell is another resident who’s not pleased with the realignment idea, in part, because it would force more traffic past his home on Kings Highway with the new location points.

&uot;It just doesn’t make sense,&uot; Harrell said in an interview before the hearing.

Lynnette Young has lived on Bridge Point Farm Trail for 10 years, and said she’s always &uot;enjoyed’ the Kings Highway Bridge. &uot;It adds ambience and serves as the most convenient access to get out of our road,&uot; Young said. She added that the current bridge location actually proved advantageous during the recent storm in allowing emergency vehicles to respond quicker to their community.

All oral and written comments will be reviewed by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which will have the final say as to which alternative will be selected. All comments must be submitted to VDOT by Nov. 8.

Cost for replacing the current bridge in the same location is $26.3 million and realignment, $28.8 million.