A new Kings Highway Bridge is a bridge too far

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 3, 2006

You should see Andy Damiani’s latest Roundtable Talk Show … with great risk of life we filmed it on remains of the only bridge between Chuckatuck and Driver. We went as far out on the span as we could, considering it was open to boat traffic. You could say we were out on a limb, because we were breaking the law … we sneaked past the barriers and warning signs. The Prime Media camera crew had to lug heavy cameras out there and both Andy and I are in no shape to jump hurdles. There were a few spectators looking on, perhaps awaiting a confrontation with the law. Nothing happened and all went well. Thanks to the Suffolk News Herald for having a reporter on the spot … we want all the attention we can garner, we want to save the historic bridge.

The first thing I noticed out over the water was scraps of squid bait on the rail, indicating croaker fishermen had dared to trespass; and there is an osprey nest up on the highest girder, occupied by chicks. We watched the parent bringing in fresh fish. With flaps fully extended she’d come in like a plane, into the wind for a graceful landing. This protected bird will get more attention than officials of both VDOT and Suffolk … federal and state laws say hands off that nest for now.

Andy’s guests were Linda Wright and Tobie Thevenin, two members of the &uot;Bridge Club&uot; that has worked many months attempting to preserve the bridge. She carried a stack of 4,200 petitions signed by Suffolk citizens and others from Hampton Roads who have been handicapped by the bridge closure. She spoke of the inconvenience and costs forced upon them by lengthy detours. Residents of Driver and Chuckatuck have been as severed from each other as were those separated by the Berlin Wall. Businesses at both ends of the bridge have suffered. Persons requiring the services of police, emergency medical personnel, and fire departments have been put in jeopardy. For many in this area of Suffolk it is a calamity and there must be a remedy. Does Council care?

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What you will hear, if you watch the show, is that only a handful of experts believe the bridge is beyond fixing. No one believes that an unbiased engineering study has been done. No one has any idea of costs to repair, but no estimate exceeds a million dollars — less than it would cost to demolish it. So there’s a million and a half that could be used. Another million or so could be provided by not restoring the old courthouse and turning it into a visitor center … not needed, and certainly not as economically sound as a bridge. Citizens should come way ahead of tourists.

Downtown it was considered important to spend millions to fund a Cultural Center, the Railroad Station, Phoenix Bank, and build a Hilton. So what about a bridge between two villages? Funny isn’t it; the city could not wait to have those downtown projects completed, but it’s OK that thousands of citizens must wait 10 or more years for a new bridge. Let’s blow up that bridge across the Nansemond on Main by McDonalds and the Hilton and you will hear an uproar. Figure what it would cost to detour that &uot;hole in the road&uot; and you will get the idea.

What I wonder about is why this Council would agree to terms that include destroying it. Who are these people who want it torn down? Could it be someone who lives between Crittenden Road and the river that wants to eliminate traffic by their home … so they could roller skate on the pavement? I wonder what would motivate certain members of council to quit the battle and throw in the towel … since when do the people of Driver and Chuckatuck not count? The new Council might better give this some serious thought … there will be other elections to come.

Contact Pocklington at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com