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State reduces weight limits on Chatham Bridge

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The Chatham Bridge over the Rappahannock River just received a status update.

The four-lane State Route 3 span, built in 1941 and already listed as structurally deficient, will have a posted weight limit of 21 tons for single vehicles and 26 tons for tractor–trailers.

The weight limits resulted from an annual inspection conducted in February, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

The inspection found that the main steel beams have continued to deteriorate. Additional stress analysis determined the need for the new posted limits.

Weight limit signs should be posted by May 16.

“As VDOT prepares to replace or rehabilitate the Chatham Bridge, this weight limit will reduce the amount of stress being placed on the crossing by larger loads,” said Annette Adams, structure and bridge engineer in VDOT’s Fredericksburg District.

The change comes weeks after an overweight tractor–trailer got stuck trying to cross the bridge into Fredericksburg. The 81.6-ton truck, carrying a generator, weighed in at twice the 40-ton state limit for such bridges. The driver was charged and faces thousands of dollars in fines.

VDOT completed an emergency inspection shortly after the April 12 incident. No additional problems were found.

The bridge, used by some 14,000 vehicles daily crossing between Stafford County and the city, has had below-average structural ratings for years. According to VDOT’s bridge status database, the bridge’s overall sufficiency rating is 36.6, based on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the worst.

The Chatham Bridge becomes one of 11 other primary road bridges to have a posted weight limit in the Fredericksburg District. There are 43 secondary bridges with weight limits in the district.

There is initial funding to replace or rehab the Chatham Bridge included in a draft of the state’s six-year improvement plan, which the Commonwealth Transportation Board will vote on in June.

Public hearings on the plan are set up across the state. The Fredericksburg District’s public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at Essex High School.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436


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