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Bridge set for repairs

The underneath portion of a bridge on South Quay Road over Blackwater River outside Franklin appears in the photograph. The bridge is expected to be repaired this month and replaced in 2014 or 2015. -- Jeff Turner | Submitted

FRANKLIN—When Jeff Turner looks underneath the South Quay Road bridge over the Blackwater River, he sees a lot of fluorescent pink.

The pink is from spray paint, which Turner assumes was applied by inspectors to the 70-year-old steel bridge’s trouble spots.

“It’s in really bad shape,” said Turner, who leads the Blackway and Nottway Riverkeeper Program, an organization that focuses on keeping local waterways healthy. “I’ve been under there and seen stuff (chunks of concrete) fall off.”

There’s good news.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has awarded a $316,589 contract to repair the 437-foot-long bridge, said Nora Chivers, public information officer for the agency’s Suffolk office. Work is expected to begin this month.

In addition, the bridge is expected to be replaced in 2014 or 2015, Chivers said.

VDOT categorizes the South Quay Road bridge as “structurally deficient.” It is one of 1,755 bridges among Virginia’s 20,842 listed that way, according to the agency’s website.

Structurally deficient means the bridge must be monitored, inspected and maintained. The fact that a bridge is “deficient” does not imply that it is likely to collapse or that it is unsafe, according to VDOT.

Structurally deficient bridges are inspected every two years, said Lauren Hansen, acting public affairs manager for VDOT in Suffolk.

The South Quay Road bridge had its last inspection on March 15, Chivers noted.

National Bridge Inventory, which provides detailed technical and engineering information about thousands of bridges in the United States including year built, bridge design and condition, also categorizes the South Quay bridge as structurally deficient.

On its website nationalbridges.com, it’s reported that foundations were determined to be stable, and the bridge railing does not meet acceptable standards. As for the structural evaluation, it reported that the bridge meets minimum tolerable limits to be left in place as is.

Built in 1940 and reconstructed in 1966, the bridge used to turn to the side to let tugboats pass, Turner said.

“They would bring pulp wood to the mill, but they done away with tugboat operations,” he said.