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June 22, 2011

Belmont Bridge design coming into focus

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Design work continues on the replacement of Charlottesville’s deteriorating Belmont Bridge, despite an uncertain funding future.

“We want to carefully consider our options with this new bridge,” said Jeannette Janiczek, manager of the city’s urban construction initiative.

Janiczek briefed the City Council on Monday night on the ongoing design of the bridge’s replacement. She wanted the council to weigh in on several design choices that have been made regarding the bridge.

“One of these is that this bridge is a community asset, that it needs to be multi-modal, that it’s a gateway, and that it needs to be safe and attractive,” Janiczek said.

Other design goals include keeping it within the existing right of way and phasing construction so the roadway does not close while the bridge is replaced.

20110621-cross-section
A cross-section of the bridge depicts two bike lanes, two sidewalks, and three vehicular lanes

Those choices have led planners to design the bridge with bike lanes in both directions of traffic. There will also be a 5-foot-wide sidewalk on the eastern side and an 8-foot-wide sidewalk on the western side.

Councilors were generally supportive of the design’s direction.

“It is an entrance to the downtown area and we want to make sure that it is attractive and welcoming,” Councilor Satyendra Huja said.

Councilor Kristin Szakos asked if there was a way to use the bridge to help shield the Belmont and Carlton neighborhoods from noise from the nTelos Wireless Pavilion.

“We’re not going to do anything to make the sound worse in Belmont, but I don’t think that a sound barrier for that very purpose would be allowed in the funding for the project,” Janiczek said.

The bridge was built in 1961. A study in 2003 determined the bridge’s deck was deteriorating and recommended replacement as a more cost-effective solution than repairing it. The new bridge will be built with an anticipated lifespan of 75 years.

In May, the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board approved an amendment to its transportation improvement plan that increased the cost estimate for the bridge from $9.2 million to $14.5 million.

In an email sent to Charlottesville Tomorrow earlier this month, Janiczek said the city has so far accrued $4.1 million toward the project.

Last week, the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $1 million in revenue-sharing funds for the project over the next two years, requiring a $1 million match from the city. However, no other funds from the state are expected until at least 2018 unless the Virginia Department of Transportation’s six-year improvement plan is amended by the CTB.

However, the city recently agreed to transfer to VDOT control of a project to add additional lanes at the interchange of U.S. 29 and U.S. 250. Officials have said it is possible that money saved for that project could be transferred to the Belmont Bridge.

The council will receive another update on the bridge in a few months.

 

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