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Fall Hill Avenue canal bridge to close Feb. 12

The Fall Hill Avenue bridge over the Rappahannock Canal will close on Feb. 12, Fredericksburg Public Works Director Doug Fawcett announced this week.

That bridge, built in the 1950s, will be demolished and replaced with a two-lane span that is expected to be ready for traffic on Nov. 10, 2014, Fawcett told Fredericksburg City Council on Tuesday night.

The contractor, American Infrastructure, has been offered an incentive of $1,000 per day to finish the project early, Fawcett said. The contractor can receive up to $60,000.

Conversely, the Worcester, Pa.-based contractor faces a penalty of $1,000 per day for not finishing on time.

Over the summer, utilities work started at the site in preparation for the bridge work, but American Infrastructure won’t begin until after Jan. 1.

Between now and Feb. 12, city officials will provide a series of warnings to alert pedestrians and motorists about the upcoming closure, which will require a 5.5-mile detour.

The first thing people will notice is that the gravel parking lot next to the Gordon W. Shelton pedestrian bridge and the Shelton bridge will close by the end of this year. The space will be needed by the contractor for materials and equipment during the bridge work.

The Shelton bridge across from the Virginia Outdoor Center should reopen at the same time as the vehicle bridge. The lot near it will be paved as part of the bridge work, Fawcett said.

Also, by Dec. 31, the Rappahannock River Heritage Trail will be re-routed through Normandy Village and the Rappahannock Canal Path.

In January, the city will start posting signs and distributing reminders of the pending closure. Residents of Normandy Village and businesses along Fall Hill Avenue will receive letters notifying them of the closure during the week of Jan. 6, Fawcett said. The general public will start seeing information at the same time through the city’s website,, through the city’s email and text alerts, and through local media, Fawcett said.

The final week of January, the city will erect message boards that announce the closure.

Finally, the week of Feb. 2, the city will begin using the signs to post a countdown to closure and emphasizing the route for the detour.

The bridge will officially close at 9 a.m. on Feb. 12, Fawcett said.

Funding for the $3.1 million project is shared equally by the city and a Virginia Department of Transportation revenue sharing grant.

The project will require closing Fall Hill Avenue on the eastern side at Virginia Outdoor Center and on the west at Forest Village Apartments.

On the east side of the bridge, the detour will take drivers from Fall Hill Avenue to U.S. 1, then to Cowan Boulevard and onto Carl D. Silver Parkway at Central Park before rejoining the other side of Fall Hill Avenue.

Fawcett told the City Council in March that engineers did in-depth studies looking for alternatives to closing the busy road during construction but found nothing viable.

The current Fall Hill Avenue bridge is the only bridge in the city with a weight limit. Its limit is 18 tons.

The new bridge will have two lanes and rise about 10 feet higher than the current one to allow for a new pedestrian and bike path to run beneath it.

That path and a second pedestrian bridge are part of the project. The second pedestrian bridge will be on the north side of the vehicle bridge, allowing pedestrians to pass from one side of Fall Hill Avenue to the other by traveling under the new vehicle bridge.

The new path will connect the Heritage Trail to the Canal Path and to the Shelton pedestrian bridge.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972


Here are key dates related to the closure of the Fall Hill Avenue bridge and construction of a new one.

By Dec. 31: Gordon W. Shelton pedestrian bridge and gravel parking lot will be closed.

By Dec. 31: The Heritage Trail will be re-routed through Normandy Village to the Canal Path.

Jan. 6, 2014: The city will start sending notices of the pending bridge closure.

Jan. 27–31: Message boards will start warning of the pending bridge closure.

Feb. 2–6: Detour signs will be installed and a countdown to the closure will begin on signs.

Feb. 12: The Fall Hill Avenue bridge will close as of 9 a.m.

Nov. 10: New bridge should be ready to reopen to traffic.