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Getting There: Falmouth Bridge in need of more patchwork

THE OLD BRIDGE looks like a fighter who’s spent too many years leading with his face.

It’s a patchwork of patchwork, which never seems to be enough to mask the beating Father Time has unleashed on the Falmouth Bridge during its 71 years of service over the Rappahannock River.

Crews last worked on the U.S. 1 bridge in 2012, taking jackhammers to the crumbling sidewalks and replacing sections that had exposed the reinforcing steel rods.

Before that work, orange netting and steel plates covered the bad spots. So the bridge has seen worse times.

But in another sign that its better days are long past, the bridge is going to need a little more work soon to fix a cracked metal expansion joint that clangs every time cars run over it.

A local driver pointed out this most recent problem, figuring it could do some damage

if it’s not repaired.

The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to file down the joint in the fall, according to spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

The busted joint, she acknowledged, highlights the “bridge’s overall need for major rehabilitation or complete replacement.”

There is reason for optimism—some money is available to start preliminary engineering … in five years.

That really is optimistic in the world of transportation, where the bureaucratic machine moves about as fast as northbound traffic crossing the Falmouth Bridge late on a Sunday afternoon.


If you’ve driven long enough, at some point you’ve found yourself in the lone car at a four-way-stop intersection. No traffic in sight. Maybe it’s the middle of the night. Maybe it’s early in the morning. But there you stop—or come to a rolling stop, or at least take a peek before going—and look around at the otherwise empty road before moving on.

Traffic isn’t like that very often around here, but there are ebbs and flows, something roadside signs aren’t really designed to handle.

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute are looking at replacing that static approach to driving with futuristic real-time technology.

In the study, roadside signs are replaced by dashboard screens that tell drivers what to do, say, at a four-way intersection.

In a way, it’s sci-fi technology, a concept workable only in a drastically different futuristic transportation system that would have moved on to an adaptive connected-vehicle technology.

Still, the study could help with the institute’s current work on connected-vehicle technology, which it describes as a “futuristic intranet-like grid system where ‘smart’ cars and other vehicles will be able to communicate not only with each other, but surrounding infrastructure to help prevent auto crashes and ease congestion.”

We’ll see one form of connected technology in action soon along Interstate 95.

The express lanes won’t be on the same level as the technology considered in the Virginia Tech study, but the lanes will rely on plenty of wireless connectivity—everything from digital toll collection to speed monitoring—to help keep traffic flowing.

The lanes should open in January.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436