JPA bridge: Closed until September... 2012

The nearly 80-year-old bridge carrying Jefferson Park Avenue over the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks closed down Monday, April 4 for the first phase of the bridge's replacement. While walkers, who were out in force during the April 4 closure, can continue to use the Depression-era structure during the early phases of the project, vehicles have already been banned.

Ironically, the closest train tracks-crossing street has a mobility problem of its own. Shamrock Road, a Cherry Avenue feeder, is in the midst of a road-ripping utility project that has squeezed access to just one flagman-enabled lane, which could snarl traffic in the area even more than expected. Indeed, as a major entrance corridor to the University, particularly Scott Stadium, the loss of JPA Extended will be sorely felt, especially during football season.

"It was kind of unfortunate that they had to happen at the same time," says City spokesperson Ric Barrick, explaining that the one or two weeks of utility work would have created bottlenecks whenever it occurred along the course of the the year-and-half bridge replacement. "But we feel like we better rip the band-aid now."

The walkers are slated to get the benefit of a temporary bike-pedestrian bridge at the end of July, and then when the bridge is completed– by September 24, 2012– there will be dedicated bike lanes and a sidewalk on the 67-foot-wide replacement structure. Once the temporary pedestrian bridge is in place, the existing bridge will be removed.

In January, R. R. Dawson Bridge Co. of Lexington, Kentucky received the $5.8 million contract for construction of the new bridge which replaces one built prior to 1932 with an 8-ton weight limit. Unfortunately, the company's low bid was $1.2 million over the budgeted amount for the JPA bridge replacement, which forced City Council to dip into a $5.3 million fund reserved for another ailing bridge, the Belmont Bridge, which had previously been identified as the city's number one infrastructure project. City planning officials say the cost overrun is the result of last-minute requests from Norfolk Southern.

City officials have vowed to make the Belmont Bridge project a priority again once the JPA Bridge is replaced, but it could be years before the City receives the matching funds needed from VDOT for the project. 

For years now, members of the Fry Spring's Neighborhood Association have been concerned about the bridge closure, particularly how long it will be closed. Folks on Todd Avenue, which runs parallel to the tracks aside the bridge, will be most severely affected, as the street will be closed when construction starts; and there will be tree felling in the area, but since construction crews plan to use locations around the bridge as a staging area, it could be real chaos for home and business owners on either side of the bridge.

The Virginia Department of Transportation, which will maintain a project website, notes that fire and emergency vehicles cannot use this structure and that transit services are limited to smaller equipment.

Left out of the official accounts is that this bridge was  the site of the one of the more horrific accidents in local history when, in February 1987, a 19-year-old female UVA student died when she fell from bridge.

It turns out that the young woman and her boyfriend, fascinated by trains, had spent many an evening leaning over the side of the bridge, and were likely waiting for the Amtrak Crescent that roared in a short time after the girl's fall. Police later determined that Susan Bell had died from her fall and that the train simply thundered over her body. Her allegedly drunk boyfriend, however, dazed and frantic, suffered a life-changing head injury when he was struck by the Crescent as he attempted what he must have thought would be a rescue.

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" one or two weeks of utility work would have created bottlenecks whenever it occurred " says Barrick.. So why didn't they complete the work on Shamrock months ago ? They have known about the timing of the bridge replacement for a long time and the Fry's Spring Neighborhood Association kept telling Mr. Tolbert that this would be a problem . This is not the first Tolbert screw-up, but I hope Council will make sure it is the last .

Where is the straw- isn't this it ?

We shall survive. It won't be any worse than the Locust Avenue bridge and the Park Street bridge closing for long periods of time a few years ago.

Does anyone know how long it took to repair the Locust and Park St bridges? I don't think they were totally rebuilt as this will be, but 18 months ?

Why aren't we doing this :

Laying the Groundwork for Fast Bridge Construction

by Mary Lou Ralls and Benjamin M. Tang

Prefabricated elements and systems accelerate construction of bridges to hours or days instead of months or years.

It's ridiculous that it should take 16 months to complete a $5.8mm project. Construction projects 4 times that size and far more complex are routinely finished in less time. I'm sure that working around the train traffic makes a good excuse for dragging it out, but are trains really going by more than a total of an hour or two per day? If someone actually thought creatively and was determined to get this work done fast, I'll bet it could be done in half the time...

As a Johnson Village resident, I pass through the Shamrock Road thoroughfare everyday. The construction on Shamrock is a bit of a nuisance, but now it's going to explode with the closure of this bridge.

My most important point is this: PEOPLE.... DO NOT STOP ON THE TRAIN TRACKS! I cannot count the mornings that I have come through there and passed a car just sitting on the train tracks waiting for the flagman to let them pass. UNBELIEVABLE! Please, folks-- pay attention to where you stop!!

Does anyone else notice how sometimes the train just STOPS on the tracks?? I've been caught by a stopped train numerous times. WHY do they do that?!?! With the closure of JPA, now I'll have to go almost downtown to get around to my house.

Whew! That was a lot! Can't wait to see what kind of traffic I get to drive through tomorrow morning!

Why was not Stribling upgraded to take the detour? It was a rutted mess last time I took it.

"It was kind of unfortunate that they had to happen at the same time," says City spokesperson Ric Barrick"

No -- not unfortunate. Rather, it was entirely avoidable if we had been served by competent City administrative staff.

A fish rots from its head.

I have to agree with the other posters who think the double whammy could have been avoided. Ric Barrick is a paid mouthpiece who has no clue about the facts behind what he's saying most of the time, so his opinion on the matter is really not even worth printing.

Competent management on the part of the city could quite easily have had the Shamrock road project finished before this one began. It was scheduled long in advance and city management knew exactly what was going to happen. How many complete fails does Mr. Tolbert get before someone who can handle his job finally gets hired?

As far as the bridge goes, pre-fabrication was a no-brainer for replacing such a vital link in the local transportation system. Massive pre-fab structures are routinely erected in days not months. It's pretty shocking by comparison then to see that a tiny bridge project is expected to take 16 months to complete.

Pedestrians must have a way or they will make illegal paths. It really is outrageous they way this is happening, though there were warnings. The university should also gave been on top of this, looking out for the interests of their people.

The project has been designed for the convenience of the contractor, with little thought for anyone else. That's what happens when we are complacent.

And the city website is really starting to fray. I figured I better check whether I was being a dummy in my last post. I found:

1. The press releases link is broken (Community / News and Press Releases / "click here for the latest...")

2. The last three issues of "City Notes" have nothing about road or bridge projects.

3. Traffic Notes has not been updated since October, of what year it is not clear.

4. Yes, me dummy. "Pedestrian and bicyclist access will be maintained throughout project", contrary to the Hook's typical implication-heavy verbiage: "The walkers will eventually get the benefit of a temporary bike-pedestrian bridge". See: The page is hard to find but look for the Neighborhood Development department in top menu "Departments". You will not find it in the left-hand column, or not easily. The city web site was a bit of an embarrassment when it was redesigned, due to cost and selection of the contract, but has become pretty darn bad now.

Tolbert would be gone by now if they had hired fresh blood for the City Manager's job. With Jones at the helm I have little confidence that we will see a change.

Shamrock this morning was a nightmare. Trains stopping. Construction making it a one-lane road. Buses. Garbage trucks stopping every 30 feet during rush hour. Extra congestion from the JPA bridge closure. And to top it off: a stop light meant to ease congestion? I would be laughing at this and how entirely avoidable it was if wasn't so bloody inconvenient.

One thing Tolbert is good at is coming up with excuses. Just watch - he will blame the Shamrock disaster on the weather ( too cold to do the work), the railroad ( dragging their feet), or the construction company ( couldn't get their act together). He has known about this for years, not months. He has cost the city so much aggravation through poor planning, that it would be worth giving this man early retirement. NOW !

Looks like 17 months of no vehicular traffic over this bridge and that's if they finish on time. Buses, trucks , fire engines, rescue vehicles, cars, trains crossing the tracks, bicycles, pedestrians, and Shamrock Rd., the only way to get around this, is one lane and the passing lane is full of ruts.

April - April 2011-2012, 12 months
May - September 2012 5 months

and these folks did it in 5 hours

Better get Captain Dolby in the city manager's office to send out a mayday to Zebra 3 to get some 'struction goin' on.

All the objections posted above are valid. And it's a triple-whammy, not merely double, since nothing was done to improve Stribling, which LOTS of us are using now to go around and under the RR tracks to connect to Fontaine, including delivery trucks (UPS, etc.). Or maybe it's a quadruple whammy, since they didn't recalibrate the left turn lights on Shamrock/JPA to deal with the exponentially greater traffic. Or quintuple, since it's still illegal to make a right on red at Shamrock/Cherry. So many obvious things for the city leadership to have thought about, and so unfortunate that we are led by straw-stuffed scarecrows, gaily dancing along the yellow brick road.

The type of co-ordination you are talking about is not possible with Tolbert in charge. So everyone will suffer needlessly. When will Council and the City Manager get smart ?

By the way I got a flat tire on Stribling going under the RR tracks. Maybe nails dropping off trains, but that road is not safe for car travel.

Might be just me, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the massive inconvenience is somewhat by design. This is of a cloth with the City's favorite pet project/agenda: "Traffic Calming" which is really just "deliberate congestion" (to discourage drivers) by another name. I suspect they'd like to retrain the heavy volume of traffic that comes in from the county - Old Lynchburg Rd - to use I-64 and the 29/Fontaine corridor to come into town, rather than coming through residential neighborhoods.

Although the Shamrock construction "double-whammy" is bad and was avoidable, there is really no way that Shamrock was ever going to bear the load from JPA. JPA, Shamrock and the 10th connector were already fully loaded. Was Sunset Ave ever reconnected?!5785281/japan-fixed-this-quake+damaged-road-in-just-six-days

I can't believe that this would take this long.

FSR is right on the money. If we had gotten a professional as a new City Manger, Tolbert might have been given his walking papers or at least made to perform for a change. This World Class Failure of a city government is rotten from the head down.

At this point, I'd vote for almost anyone except an incumbent city councilor. Hiring Jones was really the last straw, since ultimately, this is his failure.

You people aren't looking far enough ahead to see the best and biggest outrage the city will bequeath us -- once the bridge is done, say in 2015, they won't actually open it up, but will wait until uva/county pay for and build the sunset connector to fontaine. after all, the complete building of a portion of a currently usable road but keeping it closed has recent precedent, unless you think the county portion of the meadowcreek parkway is best used now just for strollers and skateboarders.

Transportation options for this project were poorly planned, but at least the City is doing something. The county is responsible for the growth in the region and apart from trying to run a road thru a city park what other major roads have they funded and built to deal with this increase in vehicular traffic in the county ?

Where is the Sunset Connector planed since the 1980's. Where is the Western or Eastern By-Pass, and where are the interchanges on 29 ?

@City Resident: "Where is the Western or Eastern By-Pass"

No one empirical evidence ever showed that a bypass solved any local or regional traffic problem that was worth its cost.

I think that you'd agree that the bridge over JPA is important and should be cheap. It's what? -- 30 feet wide by 40 feet long. That should be easily prefabricated elsewhere and finalized by installation on site with a down-time of less than a day.

Check the scope of work NancyDrew linked above. Then compare to the JPA bridge.

I'd really like to hear leaders of our "World Class City" explain their incompetence. This isn't about contractors' capabilities, the technological limits of possibility, or even money. It's about managerial competence.

And the unelected administration of the City of Charlottesville FAILS.


"Check the scope of work NancyDrew linked above. Then compare to the JPA bridge."
Impressive. That project was also on an interstate highway where there was room right next to the highway to pre-fabricate the bridge. I'm no expert on pre-fabricated bridges, so perhaps someone else can enlighten me as to where the City should have pre-fabricated this new bridge. On the railroad? In the Wayside Chicken parking lot? Also, from the looks of it, moving a bridge to a new location sounds quite expensive. No mention of the cost of that bridge in the UDOT article...

City Resident makes an interesting point. Yes, the cutoff of one of the few arterial roadways into Fry's Spring is going to be tough. I'm moving into the neighborhood next year and not looking forward to sitting in traffic on Shamrock. But let's not pin this entire problem on the current City administration. The layout of roadways in this town - most of them have been here for way longer than any of us have - does not exactly promote connectivity, as the roads were basically built around the railroad. It's not Jim Tolbert's fault that there are only a few roads into Fry's Spring. It's not his fault either that Sunset Avenue is cut off at the County line, which would be pretty convenient right about now. It's not his fault that the County is growing rapidly, creating more automobile traffic. Finally, I'm surprised no one has mentioned that VDOT has a major involvement in this project (which is atypical for City transportation projects). It wouldn't surprise me if VDOT is at fault for some of the delay in getting this project started - remember, this was supposed to happen over a year ago.

Let's not go into a panic. Like Gasbag said, pretty sure we'll survive...

I think it's pretty fair to say that though it isn't perfect the 250 bypass solved it's share of problems. I would gladly use an Eastern bypass to get around town too. Not building the Meadocreek pkwy is one of the few things the city has done right. Building a meadowcreek pkwy would ruin what is good about the bypass by blocking it in the middle.

The meadowcreek pkwy idea is also leftover from an era when putting a highway though the middle of teh African American community, so that a few already wealthy men could get richer developing suburbs, could be sold as progress. So called "urban renewal" has already done too much damage in town we don't need it any more.

Anthony, precasting of concrete isn't done on site. Precast elements are made in a facility that specializes in that and trucked to the site. It happens all the time.

The Tindall Corp alone has sent enough precast concrete to town to build more than 1,000,000 sq. ft of parking.

Quite a few other major precast projects have been built locally with parts from other fabricators. You would think someone ought to be able to provide a few hundred sq. ft of bridge if someone thought to ask. It is city management's fault that no one did.

Anthony, I live in the neighborhood and rebuilding the bridge over Moore's Creek at the county line of Sunset Ave. to allow all the county traffic to come up Sunset Ave. to JPA wouldn't help this situation. If people were coming into town that way they would still be using the JPA bridge to get to the University and now that is closed.

What would have helped people in the county get to the city is building the Sunset Ave. Connector, from the county portion of Sunset directly to Fontaine .

I agree with City Resident that the county has made this problem far worse by allowing all the high density zoning south of the city with no roads to get into the city without negatively impacting neighborhoods.

When will the county build the Sunset Ave. Connector ? Even with the new bridge all the county traffic shouldn't be funneled down Old Lynchburg Rd., a narrow curvy road, and then down JPA to the new bridge ?

It is true Mr. Tolbert is not to blame for the county's negligence in not building the Sunset Connector to handle the growth south of the city, but I just heard him on WINA saying that Shamrock is not a good alternative to getting around the bridge, because of road work there, and Stribling is not a good alternative, because that road has a speeding problem. So one must conclude he is to blame for not thinking ahead and getting Shamrock fixed sooner, and if speeding is a problem on Stribling - where are the speed bumps ? And was a prefab bridge looked into to speed construction time ?

Certianly he knew that if the bridge is closed for 18 months Stribling would be a major transportation route even if Shamrock being used as well.

I live on Stribling and it already has a speeding problem which is made dangerous by several blind curves, blind hills, hidden driveways, a lack of sidewalks and very heavy pedestrian traffic - all of which I imagine may worsen with the bridge project. I would definitely welcome speed bumps. It's an old road not that appears to have grown organically rather than as a result of planning and as such, it is already ill suited to the level of traffic flow from new subdivisions it now serves, not to mention any increase in through traffic.

CookieJar, do you have an examples of "major precast projects" that are bridges and not parking decks? What about costs - how do they compare to typical bridge construction? I'm pretty sure you're not describing the UDOT project above where the entire bridge was assembled completely right next to the existing bridge and then moved into place when the existing bridge was demolished (I can't imagine that being cheap). Rather, you're describing bringing precast parts to the site that get built on to each other to construct the bridge. How do either of these compare (time and cost-wise) to, um, however VDOT/the City are reconstructing this bridge? Does anyone know how this bridge IS being constructed? Links to the project are unclear...

Also, remember that a temporary bike/ped bridge needs to be built and the existing bridge needs to be demolished first, all over a highly used train line. 16 months does seem like a long time, but "down-time of less than a day" is outright ridiculous. I also suspect that dealings with Norfolk Southern and VDOT, who are also stakeholders in the project, may have something to do with the miscommunications...

Idiotic planning - contact your city traffic engineer, not the Hook, if you want speed bumps on your street!

Agree with jack m. on this one. Had plenty of time to think about it as i sat in traffic backed up from Shamrock onto JPA yesterday afternoon...

Anthony - will do. thanks. just venting a bit here.

The way to get speed bumps on Stribling is to contact:

They are your elected representatives and they need to know that there is a serious issue that needs immediate attention, and hold those responsible who did not plan ahead. Anyone with any knowledge of this project should have known that this should have been done before the road was closed for bridge replacement.

Why doesn't Sunset Ave Exd connect to Sunset Ave? (newer resident here)

Just stating the obvious: elements of prefabricated bridge system could be brought in by train. Crane on site at the roadbed lifts and places.

@DF, county high density zoning built with inadequate infrastructure to handle the traffic, with a crumbling bridge over Moore's Creek , subject to flooding, portions of the road on the county side in the flood plain also subject to flooding during every significant rainfall, and the city portion of Sunset Ave. completely inadequate (11 feet wide in some spots ) to handle county high density zoning built and planned for along their part of the road. Also the intersection of JPA and Sunset is not configured for heavy traffic volume that would come from the county.

A study commissioned in the 1980's by the city, county and university recommended closing Sunset Ave. at the bridge and building the Southern Connector to handle the large volume of traffic that was anticipated from the county zoning along Sunset Ave Ext. At this time with 2 large scale high density developments completed even the county portion of the road needs major drainage improvements and sidewalks to make it safe for both the vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The Southern Connector from Sunset Ext. to Fontaine is desperately needed, and has been in the plannning stages for 30 years- to handle this traffic and take some of the pressure off Old Lynchburg Rd. , also a narrow windy road, and off JPA and the bridge now being repaired.

Sunset Ave. in the city is a steep, narrow, windy road and was deemed unsafe to handle the traffic volume planned from the developments along Sunset Ave. Ext. that is why all three governing bodies supported the consultants recommendation to close it.

Everywhere you look in the urban ring of the county they are encouraging denser development with adequate transportation corridors. Unless county residents elect supervisors that have a different approach to transportation this will continue.

" Everywhere you look in the urban ring of the county they are encouraging denser development with inadequate transportation corridors. Unless county residents elect supervisors that have a different approach to transportation this will continue. "

UVA has put up entire buildings in less than a third of the time it will take to build this bridge- South Lawn project, new Curry building, new Engineering building...why will this take so long?
I was in that Shamrock fiasco on Tuesday morning. What an incompetent "world class" city.

Getting across the bridge this morning was fairly disorienting as it involved navigating by huge equipment and many many trucks. Why is it that construction workers always park their cars/trucks right at the site? I have seen this all over UVa. Is this a culture or is it actually written into the contracts?

I feel sorry for the pedestrians crossing Shamrock today. The noise and dust would be sure to necessitate a shower, and trip for one's clothes to the cleaner.

We live at the end of Stribling, and the new amount of people SPEEDING through on their way to the gravel portion of Stribling extended is crazy! We walk our dog on this road, and it is really becoming dangerous. I will be contacting the council about speed bumps, but I doubt it will happen. Stribling Extended is already a mess- the school bus, not allowed to go over the JPA bridge, routinely puts huge ruts in the uphill portion, as they get stuck and try to go uphill. VDOT does a pretty good job dragging the road, but it's going to have to be a lot more frequent with the traffic amount it has now.

I have enjoyed all these righteous complaints, all justified. I am a bit surprised no one has mentioned that the pedestrian bridge, which presumably bikes will also be utilizing, will not be going up until JULY. I have personally grown whole new bones in that length of time. That is truly world class crap. If I were one of the businesses at Wayside, I would be irate. As it is, I will do my best to continue to patronize them in spite of the myopia I have come to expect from city "planners."

"Unfortunate" coincidence? As if the city were not capable of forseeing such a problem. Perhaps if we could redirect some of the funds for re-bricking/marbling/polishing/spit-shining of the dowbtown mall for the unpteenth time, then maybe I wouldn't have to replace the suspension components in my vehicle every few months. City administrators are truly making sure that Cville lives up to the title of "word class city; it feels like i'm driving in Manhattan every time I leave my driveway. Sadly, I fear that New Yorkers don't deal with nearly the headache on Park Ave. that we have to on Jeff. Park Ave.

On the railroad bridge at JPA, I am glad its getting replaced before it collapses, like our sewer systems. In 10 years when the rest of the state is falling apart, we will be proud that we fixed our major infrastructure, but then we'll probably just get a bunch more people moving here as their cities fall apart. I am fine with some incovenience in the name of improvement. How do you think these bridges got there in the first place? I would bet the traffic back up when they dug the road under the railroad on the Corner was terrible, but the Corner is a much better place now. How long do people expect this place to be a City? If its another 250 years, 18 months is not a big deal. If you believe the world will end in 2012, maybe this is just bad timing... At least UVa football fans will be in better shape this season, and traffic at that intersection might actually flow better after games let out since there will be fewer turns to make an more people walking.

JennSilv- The 250 bypass was built through McIntire Park in the 1950's, not some poor neighborhood, so if that road works as a 4 lane, the 2-lane Meadowcreek Parkway with a nice trail should be even better. Neither has anything to do with class or race, its just population growth and the reality of how we travel. Also, an interchange instead of a stop light in the middle of the 250 bypass seems like a great improvement to me, and will reduce the amount of jake-braking trucks at the light that really make McIntire a less than peaceful place right now.

my guess, knowing the city, they make the new jpa bridge a toll bridge