Hearing on Courtland bridge held

Published 9:10 am Friday, February 8, 2013

Catherine and James Wilson of Courtland look over plans for replacing the Route 35 bridge over the Nottoway River during a Thursday public hearing at Southampton Middle School. -- GWEN ALBERS | TIDEWATER NEWS

COURTLAND—Lewis Bryant has experienced going without Courtland’s Route 35 bridge, even though it’s not scheduled for replacement until spring 2014.

The Virginia Department of Transportation last summer reduced the weight limit on the 83-year-old bridge. For Bryant, operator of the Severn Peanut Co., formerly Hancock, it means his truckers can no longer use the bridge to get peanuts from three warehouses on the other side of the Nottoway River.

“I’ve got 600 loads of peanuts on the other side,” he said during a Thursday evening public hearing on the project, which is expected to create a seven-mile detour.

Courtland Vice Mayor Stan Piersa has his own concerns. The bridge’s replacement is expected to coincide with the construction of a $22 million flyover at Business 58 and Route 58 outside Courtland.

“The overlapping of the two projects will restrict traffic to so much of Courtland,” Piersa said. “Most of the businesses in town rely on passing traffic.”

The 23 months it was initially expected to replace the Route 35 bridge has been cut to 12 to 16 months, Project Manager John Harman said during the hearing at Southampton Middle School.

“We were able to have a fresh look, but there are still a number of challenges,” Harman said.

Construction on the flyover is set to begin in February 2014, yet there could be a chance that one of the two projects could be delayed, he said. Harman didn’t know which one, but said the flyover is fully funded, while the bridge is shy $1 million.

Like Bryant, Route 35 residents Catherine and James Wilson would like to see VDOT put in a temporary bridge while the new bridge is built. That would increase the price tag to $22 million.

During construction, the two-mile roundtrip to the post office in Courtland would turn into a 14-mile roundtrip for the Wilsons, who live a half-mile from the bridge.

“Fourteen miles roundtrip for two years (is a long time),” James Wilson said. “If it was a shorter period of time (that would be better).”

Other options pitched by VDOT include building a new bridge next to the old bridge for $19 million or continuing to repair the bridge, which has reached its life expectancy. Weight limits have been lowered to the minimum possible for truck traffic.

Comments taken during the hearing will help VDOT make that decision, Harman said.

The funding beyond the $13 million would have to come from other projects planned in the county.