Swoosh: North joins south over Emmet

The long-awaited bridge that will finally unite UVA's two biggest campuses– the hallowed Central Grounds and the nouveau North Grounds– is about to be built.

As first discussed by internationally famous "green" architect William McDonough back in 1996, the bridge was an integral component of a "Groundswalk" system that would includes multi-passenger vehicles "swooshing" people around Grounds. The idea– backed by UVA's Board of Visitors (in their 1998 approval of the school's master plan)– favors bikes, pedestrians, and transit over single-occupancy vehicles, says UVA landscape architect Mary Hughes.

While McDonough's dream for some sort of clean-fuel transit vehicle still lives, "The perfect vehicle just isn't there yet," says Hughes. "So we've designed a bridge that can be built in two phases."

Phase one is a pedestrian bridge, going up with $1 million in federal funds as a "demonstration project," says Hughes.

Perhaps there's hope for that "swoosh" system in our lifetimes. On March 5, General Motors and Royal Dutch Shell announced a partnership that vows to bring the price of hydrogen cars down to $20,000 by the year 2010 and create a slew of fueling stations.

Meanwhile, UVA has awarded the bridge construction contract to Hammond-Mitchell Inc. of Covington. Under UVA's "Notice to Proceed," issued March 3, the contractor has 30 days to begin work and 276 days to get the bridge usable.

"We are mobilizing this week," says project manager John Quantz on Monday, March 10. What's the first thing the public will see? Fencing and a construction trailer will soon appear at the corner of Emmet and Massie.

What's the first thing the public hears? Pile-driving for the foundations. That will happen around the start of May, says Quantz.


Width: The deck will be 18 feet wide, but the usable width between the railings is 16 feet.

Length: The clear span across Emmet Street will be 85 feet long. There will also be 40 feet of short-span bridge on the west side of Emmet and 225 feet of short spans on the east side.

Materials: Columns, beams, and railings will be steel, and the deck will be concrete. Approach paths will be paved with asphalt.

Lighting: Four lights on the bridge and 16 lights on the approaches in standard UVA "Edgewood" poles.

Location: Just south of where Meadow Creek goes beneath Emmet Street, and one block north of the CSX train bridge.

Clearance: 17 feet 6 inches above Emmet Street– about four feet more than the CSX train bridge.

Budget: Construction contract: $2,435,660 in an overall project budget of $3.2 million, which includes feasibility study, design, project management, inspection, and related work.

Architect: Amman & Whitney

Engineer: Ayers St. Gross of Baltimore

Contractor: Hammond & Mitchell of Covington

Start: some time during the month of March

Finish: Around the end of November

Hassle-factor: To permit laying the steel box beams, Emmet Street will be closed for one night. Detours and notices TBA.

sources: David Sweet in UVA's facilities management office and Mary Hughes of the UVA architect's office