It’s been detoured, stalled and stuck, but the effort to replace the Belmont Bridge is finally moving forward.
First noted by the Charlottesville City Council as a safety issue due to structural problems back in 2003, construction officially gets underway Tuesday.
The first of several traffic shifts, detours and closures is slated to begin when crews alter the path of travel at Avon Street and Ninth Street. There will be several travel changes and disruptions during the more than two-year process
Tuesday traffic will be shifted to the existing two southbound lanes on the bridge between East Market Street and Graves Street and will be controlled by a temporary signal installed at the intersection with Garrett Street.
Pedestrian access will be maintained throughout the project area and access to private parcels will be accommodated.
“Throughout the day, lane shifts and closures are expected to eradicate any remaining pavement markings, add new pavement markings and align the new temporary signal heads to the new lane configuration,” city officials said in a statement.
“Late afternoon, all traffic will be held between the East Market and Garrett/Levy intersections for 15 minutes as traffic is led into the new, long term traffic configuration by following marked work vehicles,” officials said.
Officials noted that uniformed police officers would be at the intersection to assist traffic flow.
Utility relocation work along Water Street is scheduled to be complete this week with the work moving to Garrett Street and daytime hours.
The bridge was built in 1961 to span the railroad tracks below it. The bridge carries around 14,000 vehicle trips a day, according to Virginia Department of Transportation estimates.
The city began studying the bridge for repair or replacement in 2003. In 2009, the council decided that the bridge needed to be replaced at a cost of about $9 million, but designs for the replacement bridge met with community opposition.
The city and residents held numerous discussions and considered several design alternatives in the following years, including an at-grade railroad crossing and a tunnel beneath the tracks.
In 2014, the council reaffirmed its decision to replace the bridge with an enhanced design, but the firm hired by the city in 2009 had gone out of business. In 2017, the city had a new designer and began anew.
The new bridge is designed to provide travel for bikes, pedestrians, buses and cars between the surrounding neighborhoods and the city’s downtown. It is expected to cost a total of $35,380,782 and be complete in January 2024.