Options discussed for Route 35 Courtland bridge

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, November 27, 2012

COURTLAND—The Virginia Department of Transportation will let Southampton County supervisors decide the future of Courtland’s Route 35 bridge.

Supervisors, in turn, agreed they would like to hear the wishes of residents and business owners and will hold a public hearing. That hearing has not been scheduled.

“We’ll do whatever you want us to do,” VDOT Franklin Residency Manager Joe Lomax told supervisors during their Monday meeting.

Concerns were expressed after learning it would take nearly two years to replace the bridge. The $13 million project would involve a seven-mile detour via Route 58 and Business Route 58.

Lomax now believes the construction could be cut to 18 months and Route 35 would be closed for only 12 months.

Lomax pitched other options, including:

• Not replacing the 83-year-old bridge, but continuing to repair it. Lomax said the bridge has reached its life expectancy. Weight limits have been lowered to the minimum possible for truck traffic.

• Build a temporary bridge while the new bridge is under construction, which would increase the entire project’s cost to $22 million.

• Build a new bridge next to the old bridge at a total cost of $19 million.

Lomax said the funding beyond the $13 million is not available so the money would have to come from other county projects.

“It would affect a future priority you have,” he said, noting construction of the $22 million flyover to eliminate the traffic lights at Business 58 and Route 58 outside Courtland will coincide with the Route 35 bridge project.

Jerusalem District Supervisor Dr. Alan Edwards, Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronnie West and Boykins-Branchville District Supervisor Carl Faison favored the $19 million option.

“I think that would be the least offensive to Courtland,” Edwards said.

“My request would be No. 3,” West added. “To look for more funds.”

Franklin District Supervisor Barry Porter and Newsoms District Supervisor Glenn Updike favored either not replacing the bridge or going with the original $13 million project.

“Let’s get real,” Porter said. “(An extra) $5 million is $5 million. If we don’t want to shut down the bridge, I think the no-build (option is best). There has to be some smart way to build a bridge in modules. You need to start to think outside the box and shorten that period.”

Capron District Supervisor Bruce Phillips asked if VDOT could narrow the closure time to less than 12 months.

“Obviously you’ve done a lot of work to shorten the project to 12 months,” Phillips said.