Make fewer trips

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

While it’s easy to sympathize with former King’s Highway Bridge users who are now finding 10 and 20 miles and 20 and 30 minutes added to their commutes – just what they needed at a time when gas prices have spiked to about $3 a gallon.

They are understandably discouraged and looking to their city for help.

According to a News-Herald story on Wednesday, some 1,500 people have signed a petition – 95 percent of those asked, according to one petitioner – asking the city to step in and make repairs needed to reopen the structure to traffic.

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The Virginia Department of Transportation closed the 75-year-old bridge over the Nansemond River, a link connecting the northern Suffolk villages of Chuckatuck and Driver, in March because of structural damage. It was used by about 3,600 motorists a day, forcing them to head out either Crittenden Road or Bennett’s Pasture Road, depending on what side of the dilapidated span they live, to reach Route 17.

The lobbying organization heading up the petition effort, which calls itself the Bridge Club, is not opposed to VDOT’s plan to build a $47 million bridge upstream from the current bridge. But with no construction funding earmarked and no time frame scheduled, the Bridge Club wants the city to invest about $700,000 in repairing the span.

The city is reported in talks with Georgia businessman Peter J. Vanderzee, president of LifeSpan Technologies, an Atlanta-based company specializing in infrastructure repairs.

Vanderzee has proposed the city – which will own the bridge once the city’s takeover of state roads goes into effect in July 2006 – contract with his company to repair the bridge. He is recommending a toll be charged to cover the costs.

People would be willing to pay $3 roundtrip to cross the bridge for the savings in time and convenience, a leader of the Bridge Club


Chuckatuck Borough Councilman Joe Barlow was admirably candid about the situation with Bridge Club members, most of whom are his constituents, saying that it is doubtful city council will allocate money for repairs, nor should they.

The bridge carried a safety rating of zero (we imagine the numbers do not go into the negatives) for some time prior to its closing. And with another bridge on the drawing board, it would not seem to make sense to put so much money into a bridge that is already obsolete.

While we would encourage city council to carefully consider the heartfelt intentions of the Bridge Club, short of something like a lottery win it’s likely those impacted by the bridge closing are going to just have to make fewer trips.