The Chatham Bridge will reopen a key entrance to Fredericksburg later this year, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced Monday.
One year ago, the Virginia Department of Transportation closed the 80-year-old bridge to demolish it, to make a new and improved structure. The new bridge carries drivers over the Rappahannock River, linking the city with Stafford County.
Potomac Local News on Monday toured the new bridge, which is in the later stages of construction.
The bridge has been one of the major throughways into downtown Fredericksburg from Stafford County from Route 3 since it first opened in 1941 and carried around 16,000 vehicles a day. Several improvements are underway to the bridge, which includes expanding it from a two-lane into a four-lane bridge and sturdier construction that will be able to hold larger trucks. Because of this, there will be no vehicle weight posting on the bridge.
Other additions made to the bridge will be new pedestrian and bicycle paths separated from vehicle traffic by installed barriers. The paths will also link to Stafford County’s Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail and other sidewalks in downtown Fredericksburg.
While the bridge will be open for traffic by October, completion of work on the bridge will be done by April 2022. According to VDOT Engineer Robert Ridgell, final adjustments to the bridge and clean-up, such as removal of the stone embankments placed in the river alongside the bridge, allow heavy machinery to perform its construction tasks.
The total cost of the bridge has been estimated at $23.4 million and is being funded through state transportation funds from the State of Good Repair program. The building contract for the bridge was awarded to Pittsburgh-based Joseph B. Fay; the company included in their bid a guarantee to have the bridge ready for traffic in 16 months instead of the 38 months that the project was expected to be done in.
In the days leading up to its closure, there was much concern about how that lack of the bridge would affect businesses in the downtown area. That effect, however, was eclipsed by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and made it difficult to say which had more of an impact on local businesses.