http://www.dailypress.com/news/local/dp-3301sy0mar15,0,6010696.story?coll=dp-features-midpen A new face for West Point Officials hope the Eltham Bridge, which is set to open in April, will help improve the town's traffic flow. BY MARY MONTAGUE SIKES March 15 2007 For the past three years, residents and commuters who pass through West Point have watched the face of the town transformed. It started with construction of the new Lord Delaware Bridge over the Mattaponi River, which began in spring 2004. Now a second crossing - the Eltham Bridge, over the Pamunkey River - is nearing completion. Jamie Browder, former chief engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation and now regional vice president of Wilbur Smith Associates, is project manager for both bridge construction projects. His other major projects for VDOT included I-295 and I-95 near Richmond and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. Building bridges over two major rivers at the same time, he says, is a rare occurrence. Both spans have 55-foot clearances at mean high water, he says. That means only limited openings of the Eltham Bridge will be necessary. The Lord Delaware Bridge does not have a lift span. Because the Eltham Bridge will carry traffic above the train tracks, traffic flow through town will improve even more. In the past, motorists came to expect traffic delays at West Point, due to frequent bridge openings and train cars switching at the railroad yard in town. On occasion, the span of the aging draw bridge has failed to lock back in place, causing extended delays for drivers. Prior to beginning construction on the two bridges, VDOT conducted public hearings to determine the best locations and to learn what the public wanted in the way of aesthetics. "We wanted to make improvements and make it look good, too," Browder says. The contract for construction of the Eltham Bridge was issued to Tidewater Skanska Inc. for $89,024,478.25. Construction began in mid-January 2005. The Eltham Bridge is 5,354 feet long, stretching from Kirby Street in West Point over the Pamunkey River and over Thoroughfare Creek in New Kent County. The Lord Delaware Bridge is shorter, at 3,545 feet, and cost $37,605,444.56. Project contractors were McLean Contracting Co. of Glen Burnie, Md. and Bryant Contracting Co. of Toano. Installing conduits and electrical wiring, building brick pilasters, grading the Eltham approach, completing curbs and gutters on Kirby Street, planting trees and laying brick pavers are among the activities under way to complete both bridge projects. The brick pavers form new sidewalks that stretch from one bridge to the other and add to the appearance of 14th Street. Browder explains that the project got a little behind with concrete pouring due to the weather. During the next few weeks the contractors will be forming and pouring decks and parapets, building the fixed decks for the bascule and installing the pedestrian handrail. They will start placing a base and paving F Street. They will also place a base on Kirby Street. A bascule drawbridge uses a counterweight for balance as the span swings upward - the same general principle as a seesaw. Plans are to open two lanes of the Eltham Bridge to traffic on April 25. When the projects are complete, demolition of the existing bridge will start, Browder says. The old Lord Delaware Bridge was demolished early last fall. Until 1927, when the first bridge opened across the Pamunkey River, river crossings were made by ferry boat. In 1957 the present Eltham Bridge was dedicated. The Gresham Bridge, a toll bridge built by a private contractor, opened across the Mattaponi River in 1914. The original Lord Delaware Bridge, 1572 feet in length, opened in 1945. After he oversees completion of the final touches on the Eltham Bridge and watches the last trees planted along 14th Street in West Point, Browder plans to retire. It is a fitting final project for the man who has spent well over 30 years planning, designing and constructing major civil-works projects. Copyright � 2007, Daily Press

 

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