Council approves fund search for new King’s Highway Bridge

Published 9:18 pm Wednesday, October 20, 2021

City Council unanimously approved a resolution that calls for support from the state’s transportation agency to secure money to design and build a new King’s Highway Bridge.

City staff has recommended a new, 35-foot high bridge over the Nansemond River along Five Mile Road between Godwin Boulevard and Kings Highway, a recommendation a previous council had supported more than 20 years ago.

Based on 2030 dollar estimates, such a bridge would cost $186.3 million. Public Works Director Robert Lewis said at council’s Oct. 3 meeting that multiple funding options could be available, including the State of Good Repair and Smart Scale programs through the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The resolution council adopted as part of its Oct. 20 consent agenda notes that putting the bridge upstream of its former location would improve the flow of traffic throughout the area “by providing a much-needed alternative route to I-664 through a direct connection from (State) Route 10 via Kings Highway (and) … would reduce the need to upgrade certain sections of the current Kings Highway west of the river by removing traffic from the narrow and winding portion of the existing roadway and would eliminate the need to relocate a major water transmission main.”

Lewis said the Five Mile Road span would be the best long-term alignment from a transportation and planning perspective and would not overrun Chuckatuck with added traffic. It also supports the Chuckatuck Village Plan of a Route 10/Godwin Boulevard bypass, and would have the least impact on existing homes and businesses. It would also shift traffic away from Crittenden Road and provide an outlet for overflow traffic on both Bridge Road and the U.S. Route 58 Bypass when incidents on the interstate occur.

The resolution also said a new bridge complements the city’s vision for the corridor to make access across the Nansemond River to the city’s northeast development area from both the central core and the northwest development areas convenient.

VDOT and the city’s General Assembly delegation have asked for information on the city’s position on the final design and location for the replacement, and council adopting the resolution now provides that to them.

The city had been debating five options for the bridge, two options at its former location, two along Five Mile Road, and another not to build anything. Each location’s options centered on a 35-foot or 65-foot high bridge.

The Kings Highway Bridge was originally built in 1926, removed from service in 2005 and demolished in 2007.

Lewis noted that the Five Mile Road option for a new bridge supports the city’s 2035 comprehensive plan, and it corresponds with a 2000 council decision to choose the same alignment as city staff has recommended. Later in 2000, the city’s General Assembly delegation at that time sent a letter to the Virginia Transportation Board supporting bridge realignment.

About 10,000 to 12,000 vehicles per day would move across a new span, Lewis estimated, up from the 3,500 per day that was crossing the bridge when it closed in 2005.

Council had already declared a new bridge a high priority on its 2020 legislative agenda.

The recommended choice, and council’s support of it, comes despite 48% of residents favoring a new Kings Highway Bridge at its former location, versus 30% who supported building it along Five Mile Road. Another 22% did not support building a new bridge, while 70% said replacing the Kings Highway Bridge with a new one should be a priority.

The city solicited feedback from residents about a year ago during public engagement sessions on both sides of the river.