Courtland bridge over Nottoway to close for two years

Published 10:37 am Wednesday, August 22, 2012

COURTLAND—James Nicholson isn’t looking forward to the construction of a new Route 35 bridge over the Nottoway River just west of Courtland.

Two motorists drive across the Nottway River bridge on Route 35 outside Courtland. The bridge is expected to be replaced this October and take two years to replace. -- DAVID RUDZIK/TIDEWATER NEWS

Scheduled to begin in October, the $13.8 million project will take the Virginia Department of Transportation nearly two years to complete. That concerns Nicholson, the owner of Nicholson Auto Parts on Main Street in Courtland, whose business will be cut off to the southwestern portion of Southampton County.

“It will probably have a major effect (on my business),” he said. “People will probably just continue to Franklin.”

A seven-mile detour is planned via Route 58 and Business Route 58, said Brooke Grow, public affairs specialist with VDOT in Suffolk.

Margaret Bryan, office manager for Edwards Hardware also on Main Street, questions why a new bridge can’t be built beside the current 83-year-old bridge.

“It’s gonna take the traffic away from Courtland for a couple years,” Bryan said.

Construction of the bridge on a parallel location would greatly increase construction and right-of-way costs while also presenting unfavorable environmental impacts, said Kris Purzycki, public information officer with VDOT.

“When VDOT evaluated all of the available project alternatives, replacing the Nottoway bridge at the same location was judged as being the option that was the most economical and the least damaging to the Nottoway River, adjacent wetlands and nearby utilities,” Purzycki said.

Southampton County Administrator Mike Johnson has asked VDOT for a public hearing on the project.

One is expected to be held in October or November, Grow said.

“The two biggest issues are public safety and economic impact here in Courtland,” Johnson said. “When they were doing the paving out there (a few months ago for about a week), they did feel the impact.”

“The bread and butter of all small towns is their retail district,” he continued. “Edwards Hardware is the only hardware store in Southampton County and relies heavily on customers from Boykins and Capron that utilize Route 35.”

Johnson noted that Courtland Volunteer Rescue Squad is 1,500 feet east of the bridge, but is the primary agency responsible for a substantial area on the western side.

“Closure of the bridge adds more than 3.5 miles to their response route for areas south and west of Southampton Middle School,” he said. “This will equate to response delays of at least five to six minutes, perhaps more, depending upon the level of traffic along Main Street Courtland. The same is true for calls answered by the Southampton County Sheriff’s Office and Courtland Volunteer Fire Department.”