It may not be a “bridge to nowhere,” but it could be called a bridge for no one; that is, if you’re walking.
Area residents got their first look at a bridge-replacement project on Jefferson Davis Highway last week. The $18.8-million project to replace the deteriorating four-lane bridge over the CSX rail lines at Bellwood Road was introduced to the public at an open house at Bellwood Elementary School on Oct. 17 by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
A number of the small group of local residents who attended the public meeting quickly realized that the new bridge would not include sidewalks or provide a bicycle lane. Rene Eldrid, Bensley resident and Jefferson Davis Association (JDA) member, picked up on it right away.
“I really can’t believe there’s no sidewalks when you consider what we’re trying to do here,” she said.
VDOT project manager John Kennedy was concerned about what sidewalks could add to the cost. “Adding sidewalks would cause us to have to redesign,” he said.
About 1,000 feet north of the bridge project, just opposite Winchester Green, funding for a sidewalk project has been secured through a Community Development Block Grant, according to Chesterfield County’s Revitalization Director Thomas Jacobson.
George Fisher, community police officer for Chesterfield, recalled the number of pedestrians who cross the bridge by walking in a traffic lane and expressed his concern from a safety standpoint. Fisher is somewhat of a safety expert on the northern portion of the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor because of his time as community police officer there.
“When you look at it from a safety standpoint, if they could think about adding sidewalk, it would help tremendously,” Fisher said.
The bridge plans seem to contradict VDOTs “Policy for Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations,” which was adopted by the Commonwealth Transportation Board on March 18, 2004. According to the document, “The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will initiate all highway construction projects with the presumption that the projects shall accommodate bicycling and walking.”
According to project documents, the project involves widening lanes, improving drainage and providing paved shoulders. The new bridge will be relocated approximately 67 feet west of the existing bridge. The relocation will allow traffic to continue on two lanes of the bridge at all times.
The proposed improvements will consist of 12-foot travel lanes, 10-foot shoulders and a 16-foot raised median. Guardrail will be installed adjacent to the bridge approaches, and a turn lane will be provided for Bellwood Road and the entrances to the mobile home park north of the bridge. New traffic signals will be included for the Route 1 and Chester/Bellwood roads intersection.