A missed opportunity

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, April 26, 2012

By Jon Ward

Many of you remember the Kings Highway Bridge that was shut down back in 2005. It was a huge setback for people who were used to having a quick trip across the Nansemond River between the villages of Driver and Chuckatuck.

The bridge’s demolition has been a sore subject with many local folks, as it now requires a 19-mile detour to span that little piece of the river.

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Suffolk had the chance to either take over the bridge along with the rest of the roads in the city, or to sell the bridge to a private entity. I personally knew of a proposal that was given to the city of Suffolk to privatize the bridge and make it back into a toll bridge like it was so many years ago.

The idea was simple. At the time, the bridge needed $750,000 worth or repairs done to make it “safe.” Along with either some toll booths or an EZPass-type system installed, an investment of about $1.2 million would have had the bridge back up and running.

Keep in mind that at the time, there were strong talks about having a new bridge built from Driver’s side of the river to Route 10 in Chuckatuck. If that new bridge project had been funded, it would have taken about six years for the new bridge to be completed.

In that time frame, a toll bridge could have earned a substantial amount of revenue to help all of the citizens of Suffolk. The math is simple: Approximately 3,300 cars a day traveled the bridge. Multiply that by a toll of $1.50 to cross, and you get revenue of about $4,950 a day. In a year, the toll would have generated $1,806,750. Even if the city had put $500,000 a year into maintenance for the bridge, that would still leave about $1.3 million. Now, multiply that total by the seven years the bridge has been gone, and you get a revenue loss of $9.1 million.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have that money to put towards the school system’s budget shortfall?

Even if the city had sold the bridge and let it stay open and private, it still would have generated a lot of tax revenue.

Furthermore, after a new bridge had been built, the old one could have been turned into a fishing pier that would still generate revenue for the city. Instead, VDOT and the Suffolk’s administration decided to take down the old bridge at the taxpayers’ expense! Hindsight is always 20/20, but I wonder if any of the folks downtown wish they had given a second look to that proposal.

This is just a stark reminder of why citizens need to stay involved in the government process to ensure that the people elected to represent us and the people they appoint to run the city actually do things that are in Suffolk’s best interest.

Since this proposal never came to light, we are now without a bridge and are short about $9 million that would surely help us out right now.

Seems like a missed opportunity to me.

Jon Ward is a resident of the Eclipse community in Suffolk. Contact him at TigPooh2@aol.com.