Wasted gateway: How the City (mis)treats the Belmont Bridge

The bridge serves as Downtown's main southern gateway. Few of today's college students were alive in 1986. That was the year the space shuttle Challenger exploded, and Ronald Reagan was president. That was also the last time the Belmont Bridge was painted.

Such a 26-year omission bolsters the view that Charlottesville has neglected one of its most prominent and valuable pieces of infrastructure, a vital gateway to downtown that city officials now want to destroy and replace for an amount estimated to top $14 million.

"There's no good that comes from that kind of neglect," says contractor and former City Council candidate Bob Fenwick. "It always costs you more if you don't maintain."

City engineer Tony Edwards, defending the replacement decision, estimates that launching a paint job might now cost more than a million dollars. With this bridge, which opened in 1962, reaching the end of its 50-year design life-span, he contends that replacement is the best option.

"We're trying to make repairs," says Edwards, "but you do eventually run out of life in these structures."

But could the Belmont Bridge have more life left in it? The much older Golden Gate Bridge (1937) and the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) seem to be going strong with regular maintenance, and Fenwick says that public works can far exceed their original design life when properly maintained. Fenwick says he has clambered over, under, and around the Belmont Bridge– and found a structure readily salvageable but currently neglected.

"It's not rocket science," says Fenwick, a seven-year veteran of the Army Corps of Engineers. "The city has professionals. That's their job, and they're just failing in that job."

The 26 years without a paint job is just one of the omissions revealed after a reporter's inquiries. Others include a failure to caulk (to prevent damaging water and ice from reaching structural components) and an unwillingness to fill cracking sidewalks. The latter situation culminated last year when, in a split vote, City Council spent $15,000 to fence pedestrians away from concrete cracks rather than executing repairs.

Since 1905, a bridge has existed at this site to keep trains and road vehicles apart. In 2003, the City took delivery of an engineering report that focused on ways to extend the life of the bridge. In 2010, the City took delivery of another report by the same engineering firm, MMM Design, whose lead local engineer has been telling city officials they should replace the bridge.

"Nowhere in either report did it say the bridge was in danger of failure," says Fenwick, who noticed something else. MMM is the same firm that subsequently won the six-figure contract to design a replacement bridge.

Sound familiar? Another local controversy raged after a private firm elevated replacement over repair. In 2003, the local waterworks began paying Pennsylvania-based Gannett Fleming to investigate ways to bolster the local supply. After portraying dredging the existing reservoir as too expensive, Gannett Fleming subsequently won a multimillion-dollar contract to design a new one. Before its ouster for insisting on a certain type of dam, the company reaped $3.9 million– without producing a single drop of additional water supply.

"This is Gannett Fleming all over again," says Fenwick. "It's outrageous."

Fenwick contends that the laws– or, at least, the officials– should ban such potential conflicts even though they don't appear to violate any state or city codes. City Manager Maurice Jones claims there's nothing wrong with the MMM relationship, which dates back about a decade and includes housing MMM's office in the City-owned Market Street Parking Deck and a million-dollar contract to oversee rebricking the Downtown Mall.

"We hired MMM after a thorough request-for-qualification process," says Jones in an email, noting that state procurement laws were followed and that the Virginia Department of Transportation, VDOT, the primary funder of the replacement bridge, hasn't raised any concerns.

"We chose MMM," Jones adds, "because they had the right mix of experience, engineering qualifications, and design capabilities."

Contacted for comment, MMM's lead engineer in Charlottesville says the City bars him from speaking with a reporter. However, an inquiry to the City finds that MMM received $1.15 million for its rebricking oversight, $320,000 for Belmont neighborhood planning, and another $1.1 million for "on-call" services that include annual bridge inspections. The $716,000 contract for designing a replacement bridge, not included in the above amounts, was executed in July 2010.

A reporter's investigation also finds that VDOT's Culpeper District has 182 bridges older than the Belmont Bridge and still carrying traffic on primary or interstate highways. Most of them, 122 bridges, have been rebuilt at some point; and yet the oldest, the 1919 structure still taking Lee Highway over a Culpeper County stream, remains unaltered with a "sufficiency rating" of 77.1 on a 1-100 scale.

The "sufficiency" scale, as VDOT readily points out, is a repair measure, not a safety measure. Across the state, VDOT has dozens of bridges measuring in just the single-digits on the sufficiency scale and yet still open for traffic. When VDOT finds that a bridge can't handle its original load, it posts weight-limit signs; when VDOT considers a bridge unsafe, it closes it. (As an indicator of how quickly sufficiency ratings can drop, the brand new Meadowcreek Parkway bridge over the Norfolk Southern train tracks, completed in 2010 but not formally opened until this year, gets a 92.9.Rather than discard, VDOT has chosen to fix its seriously-deteriorated Shadwell bridge with a $1.8 million renovation that will close this part of U.S. 250 for ten weeks beginning May 1. )

The Hook investigation also examined the District's primary and interstate bridges built in the five years before the Belmont Bridge. Each structure– 11 structures with an average rating of 87– earns a higher repair rating than the Belmont Bridge. For instance, the 1961 bridge carrying Ivy Road over U.S. 29/250 Bypass holds a rating of 75.2. By contrast, the 1962 Belmont Bridge gets just a 47.6.

A key difference could stem from the fact that all others in that 1957-1961 vintage are maintained by VDOT, and Fenwick asserts that, at least in comparison with VDOT, Charlottesville mistreats its hardware. VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter declines comment on the ratings disparity, but he does note that as an independent city, Charlottesville holds wide latitude in choosing what to build and what to repair.

"The bridge is owned and maintained by the city," says Hatter, "so they're responsible for the inspections and pretty much everything having to do with it."

VDOT won't rate a bridge as "structurally deficient" unless one of its key components– deck, superstructure, or substructure– needs repair. In the case of the Belmont Bridge, the deck missed passing by just one point on a 10-point scale. Moreover, VDOT notes that a "structurally deficient" designation– something assigned to 99 of the 1007 bridges operating in the district– is not unsafe, and that the deficient bridges can usually get upgraded.

Evidence of one major upgrade will soon be felt just five miles east of the city in Shadwell. That's in Albemarle County where transportation infrastructure is controlled by VDOT. On May 1, VDOT plans to begin detouring thru traffic onto Interstate 64 to undertake a planned 10-week replacement of the decks of the four-lane, 15,000 vehicle-per-day bridge carrying U.S. 250 over the Buckingham Branch Railroad adjacent to Stone-Robinson School. Although shorter by half than the Belmont Bridge, the Shadwell structure gets a third more traffic than its fellow four-laner. The project to fix the structurally deficient bridge has already given it new piers and will also include new abutments. The total cost is $1.8 million. The bridge was built in 1939.

If the public thinks bridges suddenly fall down from poor maintenance, they're mistaken. America's most spectacular bridge failures have stemmed, instead, from design flaws. The 1967 Silver Bridge disaster, the eye-popping rolls of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and most recent biggie, the 2007 collapse of Interstate-35 in Minneapolis, according to the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies, stemmed primarily from  flawed work by the original engineers.

As for MMM, the firm is no stranger to controversy in Charlottesville. Several years ago, when the City found the mortar holding the brick surface of the Downtown Mall crumbling, some citizens– including award-winning auto-designer Oliver Kuttner [see sidebar]– urged a simple effort using trowels and mortar that might have cost less than half a million dollars. MMM's Joe Schinstock dismissed the idea as "putting a band-aid on a very sick person." MMM eventually convinced City Council to discard the old bricks for new ones at a cost of approximately $5 million.

Back in 2005, another MMM engineer recommended replacement of the Belmont Bridge because, the firm claimed, a brand new one would cost a maximum of $4.6 million, including a 20 percent allowance for cost-overruns. However, the latest estimate of $14.6 million more than triples that figure. While that engineer, Philip D. Quillin, has left MMM for another firm and declines comment, City engineer Edwards notes that prices tend to rise over time (an assertion some homeowners may wish to challenge).

City planning director Jim Tolbert, the official who's been briefing City Council, has recently indicated on his memos that replacing the Belmont Bridge has a budgetary impact of "none." There's a certain truth to that.

Residents and businesses along Jefferson Park Avenue learned how disruptive bridge replacement could be. The City of Charlottesville receives transportation funds via various VDOT "urban allocation" formulas that produce several million dollars per year. While those funds are earmarked for transportation, city engineer Edwards confirms that the City largely gets to choose its priorities and also confirms that getting freed from spending $14.6 million for a single project could release a lot of money for other transportation projects in the City's official Six-Year Plan. After all, $14.6 million might buy a lot of roads, sidewalks, bike paths, and– as some have joked– maybe even limousine rides for deserving citizens.

Edwards also confirms that only those bridges that fall below 50 on the sufficiency scale become eligible for federal bridge replacement funds. Could the federal government be, perversely, rewarding neglect?

City records show that the last maintenance on the Belmont Bridge was the $210,077 spent in fiscal 2008 for concrete patches on the substructure including about $20,000 to install plywood to catch crumbling concrete from the deteriorating sidewalks. As for the repainting back in 1986, that job included repair of the expansion joints, a project that earned an Amherst contractor $130,261, according to a contemporary news account.

So how long could the Belmont Bridge last? Locally-based engineer Richard Lloyd, (who, like Fenwick, opposes a new reservoir), says repairs could safely provide "a multi-decade life extension."

With the southwest part of Charlottesville in transportation turmoil due to the year-plus construction effort to replace the much-smaller bridge carrying Jefferson Park Avenue over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks, some Charlottesvillians might worry that replacing the Belmont Bridge could create more hometown havoc.

Fortunately, the Belmont Bridge is actually two separate structures, so traffic might be detoured onto one while rebuilding the other. Still, the devotion of $14-plus million for one project has gotten under Fenwick's skin.

Back when he was in engineering school, Fenwick remembers taking myriad design classes but can't recall getting offered a single class in repair. Similarly, in a recent push-back against the new dam, a mild-mannered Albemarle water manager noted that public officials (and engineers on the public payroll) tend to steer toward "new engineering monuments of concrete and steel."

Fenwick shares the view that less-glamorous maintenance can't compete with the gleam of a new structure which often rewards the designers and decision-makers by putting their names in bronze on a commemorative plaque.

"There's no commemorative plaque," sighs Fenwick, "that will go on a bridge for maintenance."

This story is a part of the Which way for Belmont Bridge? special.

45 comments

seems like a recurring theme around here...don't maintain the infrastructure...the Rivanna Reservoir wasn't maintained, the 250 bypass landscaping once featured in Southern Living has been overrun with weeds and downed limbs, etc., now this...

This is a very biased article. You can't compare two different bridges with different designs, loadings, ratings, materials, etc. You also can't expect that EVERY bridge is going to exceed it's design life span. If the integrity were the only consideration in replacing this bridge, the City wouldn't have spent so much time and effort trying to allow the residents to redesign it. Mr Fenwick, to me, seems like a stereo-typical crotchety old man whistling through his teeth as he describes how things used to be in his day. Was he not on the council for many years during the period of "neglect"? Seems like he is at least partly responsible. I'm not saying that replacing the bridge is the best decision, but I do think you should stop reporting with a tone that condemns City counclil. These people were voted into thier position by a democratic process.

""We hired MMM after a thorough request-for-qualification process," says Jones in an email,"

One only need look at the process by which Jones and the disgraced Ric Barrick were hired to have serious doubts about how that company was hired. There is also the way that Barrick gamed the system to award a contract to a losing bidder in a supposedly competitive process. Only a fool would think he's the only one doing business that way downtown.
http://www.readthehook.com/103064/special-prosecutor-charges-not-filed-a...

Remember how it was impossible to get the same sized bricks to replace the old bricks on the mall? Remember how that was because no one bothered to ask the right question? Wasn't there a rush in that case to buy from a particular vendor based on misinformation about the availability of what turned out to be readily available brick?

Informed C'ville Citizen? Really, how informed can you claim to be?

-- "Was he not on the council for many years during the period of "neglect"? Seems like he is at least partly responsible."

You certainly aren't informed about the City Council you wrote in defense of. You also don't seemed to be informed about the fact that being "voted into thier[sic] position by a democratic process," doesn't mean that politicians aren't frequently idiots or acting in their own self interest rather than the interests of citizens. It's a good thing we have a local paper willing to expose them for what they are.

Mr Fenwick is correct. That bridge is overbuilt and not going anywhere. All that it needs is to be maintained.

I think a nice follow up article would to estimate 5 million for restoring this bridge and a wish list of what could be done with the other 9 million to fix the rest of the infrastucture.

At least then there would be some perspective.

Asjing MMM if the bridge needs replacement is like asking your barber if they think you need a trim, your kid if he needs a car and your wife if she needs a vacation.

(Found in Ray C. Hunt papers at Alderman) In a June 11, 1985 letter Dr. Kenneth Crispell (of Pavilion I) to Ray C. Hunt (office of the President UVA) "I have no idea is there will be any "end of the Year" money for maintenance. If so, I suggest the exterior of Pavilion I...."the wood flooring of the front porch is deteriorating". To my knowledge, these areas have been painted only once in twenty years. Even the old concept of protective maintenance has not been followed!" This is for your information only"... (As we know the whole balcony collapsed at Pavilion I during a graduation years later. The UVa didn't know there was a problem.

"Informed": Mr. Fenwick has not been on the City Council. He ran for council, but lost. Also, the city did not run the design contest for a bridge replacement; and spent no money on it that I know of. That was done by a citizens' group.

I agree that this article has an anti-givernment tone. That's what The Hook does. It would be nice to see them do something occasionally that celebrates a wise governmental decision, but I won't hold my breath.

As for the bridge, hindsight is always 20-20. You can point fingers for failure to properly maintain the bridge, but that does not change the predicament that we are in now. Nowhere in the story is there any sort of informed estimate of what it would cost to repair the current bridge, pr how much more life we could expect from a repair, so we have no basis for a cost-benefit analysis of replacement vs. repair. Presumably, repair would cost less, but also would have shorter-term benefits.

Clearly, the best lesson from this article is the need to properly maintain infrastructure. That costs money, and maintenance is hard to rally public and political support for. But it must be done.

This is the same argument they made about the current dam at Ragged Mt. - replace it don't repair. The only difference was the world class dam building firm hired by the City claimed the dam could be repaired and last 100 years or more, and the RWSA paid engineers, Schnabel spread rumors, and claimed the dam was unsafe and needed replacing, after banking millions in engineering fees and getting the contract to oversee the work.

Even knowing they could safely repair and save trees and money - Huja and Szakos sided with the RWSA and cast the deciding votes to throw the dam away - destroy the trees and waste money -

Same scenario we see here with Huja and Szakos casting the deciding votes to close the sidewalk on the Belmont Bridge rather than repair it .

We need better, smarter, more fiscally responsible leadership in this town ! With Huja leading the pack of irresponsible decisions makers and Szakos right behind. And now the arrogance of Ms. Galvin who, with Ms, Szakos, defends those they agree with and call others they don't, liers and obstructionists, who should be silenced so the important work of government can move forward.

These three have to be the worst councilors this town has ever seen. Huja can't even run the meeting.

Listen for yourself ( council response to public comments ) if you don't believe me and then you'll understand why corruption and incompetence has taken over city decisions :

http://charlottesville.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=734

At the last council meeting it made me sick watching Huja proclaiming Arbor Day and a water conservation contest with all the city trees he is responsible for killing at Ragged Mt. Natural Area (the city's largest mature forest) and the hypocrisy of his water pleas, when he is behind creating a new water hogging reservoir that will soak the ratepayers pockets books.

One thing is clear the development lobby rules this town and until more than a handful of people get active they will continue to rake in millions in fees and contracts for new infrastructure we don't need.

Uhoo.....I agree that this article has an anti-givernment tone. That's what The Hook does. It would be nice to see them do something occasionally that celebrates a wise governmental decision, but I won't hold my breath."

I agree.. it would be nice if the government actualy did something that resembled a wise decision...I am quite sure if they did it would be front page news everywhere....

Well, Bill ...

How about creating the Downtown Mall? How about educating our kids? How about renovating the Jefferson School? How about the playground at Tonsler Park? Heck, I'm a county resident, and those are just a few things that come off the top of my head. I know someone else is in charge of Fridays After Five, but I doubt that happens without the city's cooperation.

'Was he not on the council for many years during the period of "neglect"?'

Nope. You may see that the article lists him as a former candidate, because that's all he ever was. He actually ran for council because he was disgusted by the corruption in the city and wanted to make a meaningful change, but the city has spoken, and apparently "the people" prefer to waste their tax dollars to enrich friends of the city council.

Journalism is the fourth estate . Their role is to be the public's watchdog . That job requires a willingness to investigate, to ask tough questions and to go after the truth. Other than the Hook I don't see much of that happening . Plenty of news outlets here publishing rah rah press releases from government officials with no questions asked . Thank goodness we have one newspaper willing to get the facts.

One has to wonder why the practice of getting advice from one firm to do X and then rewarding them the contract persists other than business in this town
Is not about doing the right thing for the people - it's about I'll scratch your back of you scratch mine .

Sorry - meant, I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine.

I'm waiting for some honest folks in government to step forward and become heroes, as whistle blowers. The time is now - contact the Hook and we will all sing your praises.

But the hyperbole that invades journalism is far too rampant. "notes that prices tend to rise over time (an assertion some homeowners may wish to challenge)," is just such stupidity. I can bet you that any house in Cville could cost more to build today, than 10 years ago.

The VALUE of something may fluctate, but prices, like taxes DO tend to rise....

Bob Fenwick is a real asset to our community. It's too bad that he didn't get elected.

What is factually incorrect with " an assertion some homeowners..."
This is a question worth asking and not hyperbole . Many homeowners have seen the value of their homes fall - that is a fact. Hyperbole is an exaggeration and this is not.

@uhoo...
Are you kidding? Educating our kids...they do a lousy job at that partly due to the fact that liberals (which make up city council) could care less about poverty and the lousy family structure so rampant in this country. Offer vouchers to the middle- and lower-classes of the city and see how fast they rush to private schools.
The Downtown Mall? Wow, what visionaries! Every bloody city in this country was putting in pedestrian malls. Now, those bricks are a wise move and I commend them for working with their partner, MMM Design, to place that high quality walking surface on the Mall.
Tonsler Park? Great playground; just don't bring your kids there at dusk.
Fridays After Five? Again, what visionaries! Every city in this country has the same thing; nothing new. Now that Downtown Pavilion...that is a treat! I commend Council on their remaining true to Mister Jefferson's architectural ideals. I love how that blends in with all the other structures in the 'hood.

This article is spot-on, guv'ner. Gee, the old ad for car oil said: "You either pay me now or pay me later." No rocket science here. I divine from this article that city councils past and present, if they were related to dentists, would tell people to wait until their gums were bleeding before they went to the dental office.

R.I.P.: Greg Ham

Sorry Liberalace, but the city schools can compete with any school in the area-public or private!

@ Drew. Read it again. Value of a house and its replacement price are two different things. You think someone can replace a 200 year old house for the amount of money it cost to build it? We are talking about the cost of replacing something, not the "sale price" of a house. But hey, if you think bridges are for sale I have one in Brooklyn going for a low low price...

Get a grip on reality silly girl.

I don't even get the premise of this article. Because some bridges outlast their design life (and one stream crossing in Culpeper has WAY outlasted it), the city is guilty of neglect of the Belmont Bridge? After all the dang bridge has only lasted as long is it was designed to last - surely there is some government malfeasance involved. Ripe for investigative journalism.

Or maybe there are a million other factors that effect the lifespan of a bridge (traffic volume, weather events, trains, etc.) that this back of the envelope analysis doesn't consider. The fact that this bridge is about average for all bridges is hardly newsworthy.

They do not need to paint the bridge or scrape it. They can rough up the loose areas, spray it woih zinc and then spray bedliner on it (like in the bed of a pickup truck)

They can strip the current concrete, replace the metal base under the concrete and then replace with new concrete...

It isn't rocket science.

Comparing the Belmont bridge to the Golden Gate Bridge or the Brooklyn Bridge is like comparing VQR to The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly or comparing Charlottesville to New York and San Francisco.

It's nonsense.

I agree with New Reality. This isn't news. A bridge has reached the end of its life span. That's it.

A bridge doesn't just expire at some date any more than a house does. It's not a loaf of bread, and we all know know long those can last when preservative filled anyway.

It's an old broken down bridge in one of the most important gateways to downtown. Maybe it could have been maintained better, but it wasn't. The city and neighborhood deserve more than a patch job. Build it. Not news.

City Dweller, taken a look at the Federal deficit lately? It's the wasteful attitude that people like you have that got us there. The world is filled with bridges that are in daily use despite being many centuries old. A very short list follows.

The existing Belmont Bridge was built in the era that saw us land on the moon . That's when we still made things of quality in the US. It is almost certainly of better construction than what would replace it. If it needs a bit of patching then lets get that done and move on. That's what it takes to make things last.

Ponte Sant'Angelo Rome circa 134, yep nearly 2000 years old and still in use

Khaju Bridge Isfahan Iran circa 1650

London Tower Bridge circa 1894

Pont Neuf Paris circa 1607

Firth of Forth Edinburgh circa 1890 -steel by the way and in a far nastier environment

What about the 29/250 UVA Gateway project? It was to be built on the hotel property owned by UVA on the northwest corner. The northeast corner also owned by UVA looks like a war zone. The lovely chain link fence is especially welcoming to visitors and tourists. It is exactly what I would want my child to see when arriving at UVA for the first time.

UVA had an opportunity to create a "statement gateway." The potential with a good architect, something the University seems to be lacking, could be stunning. One could use the Jefferson architectural alphabet, the history and tradition of the "Academical Village", some modern design statements and contemporary materials to create a powerful entrance to the University.

The back story on why this has yet to happen is alleged to be money. Sources close to UVA claim that the previous president couldn't sell a local wealthy donor on the concept.
Another source claims some ecological issues on the site.

This all very unfortunate. If UVA can't build a gateway on this site, how about tearing down the ugly hotel/motel and plant some grass and trees on the two corners. While this is not the UVA solution which would be grand and overreachiing, it is a very inexpensive and attractive solution.

Anyone care to bet that ten posters will say in the next ten minutes that this is exactly what UVA plans to do? Mitt Romney told me that I could use the $10,000 that he didn't bet with Rick Perry!

@Webster52: "Cville schools compete with any school in the area, public or private."

Can anyone on this thread inform me how to--in words--express that laugh, you know, where you're desperately trying to contain it but it keeps coming out at snorts from your nostrils? Thanks in advance for your help.

R.I.P.: David Ruffin

CHS does offer more AP classes than all the Albemarle schools combined. Its music program beats out anything in the region. Sound reasonably competitive. Its students have been accepted to Stanford, Duke, UVa Echols program, U of Chicago, USC, Vanderbilt, Penn etc etc.

And all the while having to deal with significant urban issues within its hallways. What other school does this? So perhaps a bit more than competitive.

Your welcome for the help.

@ jimi - I went to CHS and I agree.

also: *you're.

The city schools also deal with significant immigrant populations and does a fantastic job getting these kids up to grade level. The middle school could stand to be updated, but there is a significant number of families that pay to send their kids to the Charlottesville schools--from Albemarle and the surrounding counties, especially at the elementary school level. There are fantastic programs in the arts at CHS, and in the sciences at AHS and great college prep programs and acceptance profiles at all of the local public schools, as well as a robust alternative school program and great programs at CATEC.

Wanna know what is really expensive, in the long run? An underfunded and short sighted school system--which is not the case in this region.

If you look at another article in this issue, you will that the science club (BACON) just won a prestegious honor from NASA. CHS athlete, Rasvan Unatari, designed a hybrid solar panel and is headed to the Ivy Leagues next year. Even the middle school Buford has an acedemic team that was tops in the state. Liberalace, maybe you should meet these students before trashing them and their schoosl.

stoopid grammer nazis.

@ jimi hendrix...I feel you. Keep it real, I knew what you were sayin'!

@Casual Reader: You attended CHS.

Oh sorry, you will also want to use a comma prior to the use of "and" + independent clause.

So "I attended CHS, and I agree."

NEWS FLASH!

The Seattle Space Needle is FIFTY, that's 50 years old. It looks to be in good shape! How in the heck can a bridge, the same age, need to be replaced? This isn't even a bridge over a body of water. I've driven over the bridge many times, walked across it many times and looked at it from the ground many times. It looks pretty good to me. The City needs to look at it this way. If each member of the Council had to pay for it out of their own pockets, would they be so anxious to build a new one and not repair the old one? Hey Gang, stop spending my money as if it were your money. And let's all play nice about the City School system. CHS is a very good school. I didn't go there, I went to St. Anne's-Belfield so that I could sell crack in Belmont. I hope she gave a big gift to the school before she was busted.

Sure are some different perspectives here than on the 29forum, thank goodness there are still some sane people in this world, just not enough. Go Hook Go!

FOLKS, THERE IS NO SERIOUS PLAN FOR REPLACING THIS BRIDGE! It's all an illusive eleaborate scheme to do nothing (as in stall and delay tactics) and then spring a humongous idea like constructing an underground train tunnel. City Hall's big spenders are just biding their time for the auspicous moment to put on their ritz.

No, I don't know absolutely for positively sure. However, don't put it passed 'em!

@perspective...You aren't kidding there! The 29forum is such a crackpot-redneck-racist place! Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but great day! Contributors (I use the term loosely) here aren't always civil but at least they don't go out of their way, most of the time, to be blatantly offensive.

@those cows.

Yawn.

I am curious who MMM is. Who are their principals? What other contracts (other than Cville) do they have? Those facts would be pertinent..

Walter, et al.:

MMM's website can be reached via http://www.mmmdesigngroup.com/index.shtml

"We chose MMM," Jones adds, "because they had the right mix of experience, engineering qualifications, and design capabilities." How does he know? Did he get this opinion from Overrun O'Connell?
When the State allocated money for the bridge project, it said the City could use the money to repair the bridge or to build a new one. After Council's discussion, it became the consensus to build a new one because Maurice Cox that the City could develop a "better" design. Repairing the bridge was not discussed by Council. The idea since then is to not repair the bridge or its sidewalk even so that those funds could be applied to the new bridge. The more the bridge deteriorates the better the case can be made to build a new one. To my knowledge, Council has never asked for an estimate for repair because it never intended to repair it.
By the way, after the bricks were removed from the Mall, very little work had to be done to its underpinnings, contrary to MMM''s advice. The idea to to re-design or enhance the features of the existing Mall with more water fountains, clocks, etc. Public protest brought a stop to that movement. It became clear to the public that the bricking could be repaired.
The moral here is to never believe anything you get from City Hall. It is being controlled by mysterious forces that often require them to lie to the public. I am glad Bob Fenwick is an active member of this community.
Hook, thanks for revealing all of the money MMM has been getting from the City and for the article.
@Informed C'ville Citizen, the article compared the longevity of the bridge to that of over 1000 not to just one. Not only are you not Informed you have comprehension problems, too.