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Release Date: January 29,2016

Replacement of crumbling Bridge Street bridge starts this spring

Ryan Murphy

The city of Hampton is readying a roughly $4 million contract to replace an octogenarian bridge in downtown Hampton, which nearby residents say is long overdue.

Darling Bridge over Salters Creek, on Bridge Street behind the Virginia Air and Space Center, was built in 1934 and is now marked by crumbling concrete on the curbs and railings.

"Age has caught up with this one," says Lynn Allsbrook, Hampton's Public Works director. "You get to a point where you realize that your repair costs and efforts require more with the age of the structure and it's just time to replace it."

Darling Bridge is one of two bridge spans among Hampton's roster of 85 that is considered "structurally deficient" according to state inspections data from the Virginia Department of Transportation. That designation doesn't mean the bridge is unsafe, but that it requires special attention and monitoring due to the poor condition of some sections.

The other is the westbound side of Interstate 64 at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The need for a whole new bridge had been identified by the city more than a decade ago and the plan for a replacement made its first formal appearance in the city's capital improvement plan in 2007.

This was after a major rehabilitation project in the mid-1990s to deal with structural degradation along the underside of the bridge.

"Just through the annual bridge inspections that we go through, we identified that those repairs didn't have as much life in them and we needed to go ahead and get that replaced," Allsbrook said.

The city was preparing to use road maintenance money on the project around 2009, when officials got word that VDOT had put out a call looking for projects to replace smaller bridges.

Hampton went after this funding stream, which Allsbrook said meant delaying the process by a few years while the city waited to get the money from VDOT.

"All of that funding didn't come at one time — it was spread over years," he said.

Now, the city and VDOT are finalizing a contract to get the ball rolling.

The city received bids on the project from contractors at the end of December and is in the process of getting approval and paperwork from VDOT to award the contract to Precon Marine, a Chesapeake-based contractor specializing in heavy marine and waterfront construction, Allsbrook said Friday.

The city has not formally issued the award notice yet.

Allsbrook said the new bridge will be more modern looking, with bicycle and pedestrian paths.

The new bridge will be 215 feet long and basically fit within the footprint of the current bridge, Allbrook said. Bidding documents also indicate that the contractor will be responsible for rebuilding 150 feet of approaching roadway.

Construction was expected to begin last fall, but the bidding process was delayed several times, Allsbrook said. The removal of the old bridge and construction of its successor is now slated to begin in March and take about a year.

He also said local residents wouldn't feel any disruption in the utilities carried over the creek — Dominion power lines stretching overhead are set to be buried under the creek bed and water and sewer lines that follow the bridge will be kept up during the demolition and construction.

However, drivers and pedestrians will have to use a detour by way of Armistead Avenue and Victoria Boulevard to get from Settler's Landing Road to south of Salter's Creek. The bridge is not heavily traveled — VDOT data indicates that just over 2,900 cars drive over it on an average day.

Tom and Brenda Martin, who live in a house at the foot of the bridge, said it's going to be inconvenient for them while the bridge is out of service, but they've been waiting to see something done about the crumbling structure for years.

The couple moved to the house on Bridge Street in 2012 and said they regularly see trucks driving over the bridge despite signs warning of weight limits imposed years ago for safety.

"I think it's long overdue," Tom Martin said Friday. "If your (car's) parked out on your driveway and you see a pool of oil and ignore it, pretty soon you're going to have a problem."

Darling Bridge is the only bridge currently slated for replacement in the city.

Murphy can be reached by phone at 757-247-4760.