Wayside Barbershop owner Bobby Bishop, center, joins a small crowd to watch the bridge be opened.
Something we haven't seen for over a year and a half--cars on JPA headed over the railroad tracks.
"Is this it?" a passerby says to a VDOT worker near the new Jefferson Park Avenue Bridge.
"This is it," he says, loading a "Road Closed" sign into the back of a truck.
And with that, the new bridge over the the tracks of the Norfolk Southern railroad, an $11.7 million project that took exactly 17 months and 16 days to build, was open. Cheers from the small crowd gathered on the bridge went up, and the first motorists to cross honked their horns and shouted out their windows.
Jim Utterback, VDOT’s Culpeper District Administrator, said in a statement that the new bridge will better connect neighborhoods and "improve access for emergency responders and public transit to the Fry’s Spring neighborhood," but its long closure was a source of frustration for businesses on the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and Fontaine Avenue.
"Well," said Wayside Barber Shop owner Bobby Bishop, who was especially financially hard hit by the bridge closure, pausing for a moment to watch traffic cross the bridge, "that was a pain in the a**."
Indeed, for nearly a year and half the bridge project isolated Bishop's 30-year old business, and almost killed it, along with others on the corner; the JPA Fast Mart, Wayside Chicken, Durty Nelly's, and Hoos Brew, a coffee and ice cream place run by Bishop's wife, Joan.
Today, though, was a happy day, as cars crossed the gleaming new 67-foot wide bridge with pedestrian walk-ways, bike lanes, and new exits to the business plaza.
"We're in business," Bishop shouted to his wife over at Hoos Brew, "thank goodness."
During the bridge closure, businesses on that corner weren't the only ones to suffer. While the neighborhood across the bridge enjoyed a nearly traffic-free year and half, those on Shamrock Road, which served as an alternate traffic route during the bridge construction, endured some heavy traffic through a very narrow residential area.
"Yes, we're expecting a big bump in business," says Fontaine Avenue's Atlas Coffee co-owner Lorie Craddock, who has been documenting the bridge construction on Facebook since it began. "And we're very happy for the people on Shamrock Road."