Belmont Bridge a journey or a destination?

[Re: April 12 cover story: "Belmont vortex: Vision vs. reality in Belmont Bridge debate"], three big questions to mix it up at your next backyard BBQ:

1. The historical debate: "Is the Belmont Bridge replacement design a step forward or a step back?" Historians have articulated that the current bridge was, like the Vinegar Hill razing, a product of biased urban planning and Eisenhower-era highway hysteria. It cut off Downtown from the surrounding neighborhoods– geographically, socially, and economically. Do we want to repeat that mistake for simplicity's sake? Or do we care enough to rethink that critical junction from the ground up– and maybe even below. How would we do it now if we could do it over? (And, we can.)

2. The metaphysical riddle: "Are we designing for a journey or a destination?" True, we could spend $14.5 million on a utilitarian slab of road. Or, we could create an enduring piece of Charlottesville culture– an arts district, a central park, a permanent farmer's market (add your dream here). Infrastructure is about opportunity. The Rotunda is more than a classroom. The Downtown Mall is more than a mall. That's how we do it in Charlottesville, right? Rethinking the Belmont Vortex should take us somewhere far greater than the mere distance from Levy to Market Street.

3. The political hot potato: "Who is the priority in the bridge replacement project?" VDOT? CSX? The nTelos Wireless Pavillion? Or, Charlottesville's citizens? Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the city bureaucracy took a stand on this issue. What ideals would they work, debate, and– dare we say– fight for? Those of expediency, protocol, and (quite frankly) mediocrity? Or those that challenge the status quo in favor of creativity, community, and an ambitious civic legacy. After our city's recent series of arguably lopsided negotiations (bypass, parkway, and dam), I'd like to see the interests of Charlottesville's citizens end up on top... especially on our own turf.

Brian Wimer

Read more on: belmont bridge


The demigods of Charlottesville call this a principal entrance to the city. Jets see, you get off I-64 on Monticello Ave, take a right on Avon Street, cross the Bellmont Bridge, go past the former hospital and leave town on Little High Street. Sure you can get to town by turning left, across traffic, at any stop light.

A more likely entrance to the city is the nearby Ridge Street. It goes right through the city and exits on McIntire, maybe through the park, but onto the east west bypass.

So lets not get too hung up on art. We need a solid bridge, a grade level pedestrian/bike cross walk over the tracks, a park on the vacant city land under and beside the bridge where an expanded farmer's market can be placed.

Good design, solid engineering to connect the city where roads and tracks divide it.

How did the bridge "cut off" anybody? It has sidewalks on both sides.

This entire bridge discussion is why the US is in such a financial bind. We need to become responsible and figure out what our utilitairian neeeds are first. Estimate the most cost effective way to achivee those goals and then accept the FACT that every dollar beyond that is being spent on somebodies wish list. The "wish" being to spend tax dollars that could provide something elsewhere on their pet version of "art" or asthetics or some twisted notion that Belmont is deserved of something more.

Strip the concrete, replace the steel sheets below and repour the concrete. Those steel beams are not going anywhere anytime soon.

@bill marshall Bill I agree. The structure of the bridge appears solid and the engineering reports confirm that it is. The deck needs work, the drainage of water (winter salts) has been removed and the wooden panels under the bridge are directing this water onto the supports. This is very bad and needs to be corrected. And the walkways either need to be abandoned or some type of protection from traffic provided. Maybe Jersey Barriers along the sidewalks temporally, but that silly fence is just a testament to the failings of City Council.

"cut off" Well say you arrive at the transit center with your bike on the bus. Just map out a path to Belmont. Climb the stairs carrying the bike, cross the bridge, descend the stairs. A grade level crossing below the bridge is cheap safe and would connect Belmont to the transit center and Main Mall.

Off topic, but really "Eisenhower-ers Highway hysteria"??
The writer obviously has no idea what it was like to try to get from New York to Florida, Memphis to Norfolk, or any other number of communities in the US before the "hysteria" took hold.

So, a couple of things:

1) historical: the bridge did not cut off one part of Charlottesville from another - the train tracks, which pre-date the Belmont bit of c'ville, cut off Belmont. This is just silliness.

I expect the "Eisenhower hysteria" is really the author's complaint that crossing Avon/9th at the bridge is difficult - indeed, crossing 9th anywhere between the intersection with 20S and E.High/Lexington is difficult because the road was expanded to a four lane divided road. I'm sure this is because the previous two lane bridge (like the old bridges at Ridge and JPA) was a bit of a bottleneck, particularly when downtown was still the principal business district. Ironically, of course, neither 20S, Avon or E. High were expanded.

I wonder if the writer even recalls the old access ramps behind the Armory? This whole little area has become substantially more pedestrian friendly (which is what the writer's babbling about highways is really code for).

2) Gateway to where? I agree with Richard - given that 5th extended has been expanded to a divided 4 lanes, and also connects to I-64, it's a much better candidate for "major entranceway". If I had my way, I'd have widened Ridge between McIntire and 5th extended. This "welcoming gateway" nonsense is very Belmont-centric.

The project should be done to incorporate nice design elements and create a pedestrian and community friendly environment - in addition to being an efficient roadway. It seems to me the replacement is driven by the need to replace crumbling infrastructure, plain and simple.

cut off" Well say you arrive at the transit center with your bike on the bus...

Why can't you just ride the bike towards the parking garage and go under the railroad tracks down to Monticello avenue and over? Especially if it saves the taxpayers 8 or 9 million dollars.....

Really 8 o 9 for a grade level crossing? Like the one by X-Lounge. Well modern ones are a lot better but I would expect $100,000 tops. With the automatic crossing blockade arm then maybe $200,000.

Ride or walk, the goal is to make the yet to be considered park/farmers market convenient to people on the transit side of the tracks.

Except the railroad will NEVER add an at grade crossing without requiring that another, of commensurate traffic impact, be eliminated. Which ones shall we give up in Cville, and how do we get the traffic on those addressed?

Well you evidently know the railroad and their negotiations with the city into the future.

Yeah Richard. Its called knowing SOP vs. Wishful thinking. Do your research.

non resident - I agree with you about Belmont not being cut off by the bridge. It's been cut off by silly development like the Pavillion, so that residents have to walk four blocks out of their way if any event is on. I suspect the snacking on abut making Belmont a part of downtown is driven more by those who want to financially bank on the term "Downtown Belmont" as if Belmont wasn't always a small village to itself; I gather many of the older residents would prefer it stayed that way. Belmont doesn't have the parking or the roads to handle heavy commercial development, and needs to be left a village.

I agree with you and Ricard and yes,even Bill, about the practical solution.

My dad Rocky and I really enjoy reading
About this Belmont Bridge deal .

The letter writer is a hoot...come on out our way,
Rocky had a hellva' time getting home on the 405
This week...really messed up his card game.

Here in the trailer , we have an iPad in the can....
So I can keep up with the Design Observer ....

Always be careful of fellas talking about
Community and civic legacy....

Cause it's a good bet they care little for the opinions of others
.....too busy directing everyone else.

Always ready to help out , 200 dollars a day plus expenses.

Leave a message after the beep

Jim Rockford

Lets hire Jim. Far better than Jimi Hendrix who is most likely Szakos or Galvin anyway.

non-resident taxpayer, et al.:

Ridge Street betwen McIntire and Fifth Street Extended has already been destructively widened to accommodate through traffic. In the 1970s, VDOT took slices from front yards and felled trees that had made the street a cool, green tunnel for more than a century of summers. And it also razed at least seven circa hundred-year-old houses to bring ramps from Cherry Avenue and Elliott Avenue into a pedestrian-nightmare intersection where traffic can grind to a gridlocked halt just any time of day or week.

Traffic noise already makes on-street conversation difficult. Traffic pollution already scours our paint jobs and lung linings. So I would respectfully submit that we've already given and that it's somebody else's turn.

@another cville native. Now THAT is funny! Guess you have not been reading posts for long tho...

THe McIntire Parkway is going to do even more damage to Ridge St.

Ms. Roades, I know what you mean. I can barely be heard above the honking horns and people yelling at me to get out of the road I'm having on-street conversations on Ridge Street. When will city council solve this pressing problem!!??!

Charlottesville's streets are for quiet conversations!! When will the county pony up for sound buffers for our streets?!?!

We all know that every inconvenience and imagined problem by any city resident is somehow the greedy county's fault! We must impeach all but the most rabid anti-county public servants, tear up all city streets, and return this city to its roots: subsistence farming.

That'll show those Albemarle greedheads!!


You know, your foolish sarcasm really doesn't make your point seem any more valid meanwhile. Certainly not all the city's ills are created by the county. However, as the majority of the population growth has taken place in in the county, it is reasonable to suggest that there is a correlation between the increase in city congestion and the county growth.

@meanwhile...., I suspect Ms. Roades does not expect Council to solve any problems.

Cville Eye:

You suspect correctly. Indeed, Ms. Roades does not expect current Council to deviate in any way from the pattern established by its predecessors over the last half century* -- that is, the pattern of consistently making decisions and advocating policies that diminish quality of life in the Ridge Street neighborhood. But, of course, Ms. Roades would be delighted to have her pessimism proven misplaced.

*I date from the 1963 demolition, with City blessing, of the mansion Allen W. Hawkins had built for Elijah Dunkum in 1843 for the construction of Noland plumbing supply.

Otherwise, thanks for the back up the other day.