Wilroy Road bridge readies for reopening by holiday

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2020

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Despite challenges in its construction due to the wetlands in the area and an existing above-ground water and sewer main, a new bridge on Wilroy Road between River Creek Drive and Lassiter Lane is set to reopen just in time for Thanksgiving.

Though the road is expected to reopen Nov. 25, Public Works Director L.J. Hansen has advised that there will still be periodic lane closures for several weeks to address other issues related to the construction.

“It was important for us to get the bridge open,” Hansen said. “I understand it’s a critical link for a lot of people, but the bridge still has additional work that has to be completed. In fact, we’ll probably be looking at some guardrail work for a while.”

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Allan Myers VA Inc. has performed the work on the $2.3 million project. The company also built the Jones Swamp bridge on Mineral Springs Road last year.

Hansen noted that the city had tried to perform the work on the bridge while it was open, but with a crane placed on the bridge in June to help with the work on it, there was not a way to keep any part of the bridge open.

“When we closed the bridge, we said we would have it open for Thanksgiving,” Hansen said. “That was the commitment that the contractor made to me, that it would be open for Thanksgiving.”

The original crossing was made up of three steel culverts, or pipes, in the ground and covered up with dirt. The culvert system supported the road and was made up of 10-foot diameter corrugated metal pipes that were in poor condition.

Because steel in a saltwater condition doesn’t last long, according to Hansen, it caused the steel culverts to corrode and then fail.

Those culverts were replaced, and beams have now been set across the bridge and stressed — crews run a cable between the beams, tied it up and instead of having it look like separate beams, it looks like one piece, Hansen said.

Contractors have laid a deck on top of the bridge, with asphalt going down Nov. 23.

Hansen noted the tight conditions in which crews have been working, with the Portsmouth water main on one side of the bridge, and the Hampton Roads Sanitation District force main, or pressurized sewer pipe that carries wastewater where gravity sewage flow cannot happen, on the other side.

In addition, crews have had to work around power lines, two gas lines and four different communications lines.

“Our contractor has done a really good job,” Hansen said. “We’ve had a lot of energy, a lot of focus on this, and they’ve worked through some difficult weather.”

Hansen said the contractor has had to deal with problems with the guardrail.

“Because of where the pipes are located — there’s a gas pipe, there’s the Portsmouth water main, and there’s an HRSD force main — our plan for the guardrail, we’re going to have to change it a little bit,” Hansen said. “So we’re going to have to do some rework later on. And of course, there’s always punch list items that we have to go back and look at. There might be an area of imperfect asphalt. We’ll want to take a look at everything and inspect it and make sure that everything’s up to snuff. And then usually there’s some fine grading, there’s a pipe we might have to do some additional work with.

“There’s a whole lot of stuff that we felt like we could do after the road is open, but nevertheless, it could involve some lane closures, but we’re not 100% done with the bridge.”

That section of road has been closed since July 20.

Hansen said the new bridge and work done would provide a safe, long-term solution to the previously deficient culvert and shoulder.

Detours around the project were up to seven miles.