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Getting There: There’s a reason why Falmouth Bridge bounces

BY SCOTT SHENK

THE FREE LANCE-STAR

The Falmouth Bridge is old and crusty, we all know that.

What really bothers people, though, is that it bounces. And that is not a good feeling when you’re perched overtop a river on a bridge that appears to be crumbling before your eyes.

A little explanation of why that happens might make you feel a little better—at least until you’re stuck on the bridge again.

Beam bridges like the Falmouth span are designed to have a given amount of deflection, said Annette Adams, the head Fredericksburg District structure and bridge engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“Every bridge deflects,” Adams said.

Some have more deflection, or bend, some less. It depends on the size and length of the structure.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s normal movement,” Adams said of the Falmouth Bridge, adding that she considers it safe. (The structure recently underwent its annual inspection, and the contractor has not issued any dire warnings.)

There has been talk of rebuilding the bridge, she said.

But it won’t happen anytime soon. The main reason is money—bridge work is expensive and there’s no money targeted for the Falmouth Bridge.

At least it’ll soon look better—once the current concrete rehab project is finished.

Dear Scott: I have a few questions regarding Phase II of the Courthouse Bypass.

1. Are there plans to address the issue that larger vehicles cannot make a right turn from Lake Anna Parkway onto Morris Road or Post Oak Road without having to go into oncoming traffic?

2. Why do some portions of the road have wide paved shoulders and other parts, like the entire stretch between Spotsylvania High School and the Ta River bridge, have gravel shoulders? The original plan listed wide paved shoulders as a benefit.

3. I read that since the project came in under budget, there are plans to widen a portion of the parkway to four lanes from the Robert E. Lee area to the first new bridge. I am curious what benefit the county and VDOT see in widening such a short stretch of road that will ultimately go back into two lanes. This money could be used on other road projects that would actually make a difference.

4. What conditions stipulate the requirement of a guardrail? There are several locations along the roadway that have guardrails. However I noticed guardrails absent in many areas with a steep and sudden drop on the shoulder, particularly around the Camp Town Road area.

—Janica Fagan, Spotsylvania

This is a work in progress, and as with all road work, the finished product will look different than what you see during construction.

Anyway, here’s what VDOT says about the bypass.

The problem at the Morris and Post Oak intersections is going to be fixed (work could have started already). Also, the remaining shoulders in the project area will be paved.

And concerning what VDOT will do with money saved from project “under-runs,” spokeswoman Tina Bundy said they will use it to “enhance safety along the corridor.”

In answer to the last question, regarding guardrails, Bundy said engineers determine where they are needed in the project design phase. She added that putting up guardrails in areas that don’t need them could turn out to be a detriment, causing damage to vehicles that veer off the road and otherwise wouldn’t be damaged.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/newsdesk/2012/10/28/getting-there-theres-a-reason-why-falmouth-bridge-bounces/