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October 2, 2014

Waterloo Bridge restoration estimated at $1.8 million

The Rappahannock River bridge west of Warrenton has remained closed since mid-January.
It was VDOT’s assumption that the entire superstructure would have to be replaced. The (Schiffer) report says most of the steel and metal components still have a lot of life. They just need to be cleaned up and repainted. That looks like the big difference.
— Supervisor Peter Schwartz
Prospects for saving the historic Waterloo Bridge have improved.

An independent engineers’ study (summary at bottom of story) has found that rehabilitation of the 136-year-old span would cost significantly less than the Virginia Department of Transportation projected.

The structural analysis, jointly commissioned by the Piedmont Environmental Council and Fauquier and Culpeper counties, estimates it would cost $1.8 million to completely restore the bridge for vehicles.

VDOT had projected a $5 million cost for major rehabilitation of the Rappahannock River bridge that links the two counties at Waterloo Landing, about eight miles west of Warrenton.

The single-lane metal truss structure, with a wooden deck and a 3-ton weight limit, has remained closed since mid-January, when VDOT declared it unsafe because of structural deterioration.

Built in 1878, the bridge on Route 613 (Old Waterloo Road) provided a popular shortcut between Route 688 (Leeds Manor Road) in Fauquier County and Clevenger’s Corner, where Route 211 and 229 meet in Culpeper County. Roughly 800 vehicles crossed the bridge each day, according to VDOT.

Warrenton-based PEC has led a charge to save the state’s oldest metal truss bridge because of its cultural and historical significance.

“We’re excited,” Julie Bolthouse, PEC’s Fauquier field officer, said of the engineer’s analysis, which cost $6,000. “This is a great opportunity to work with the localities and VDOT to make this (bridge restoration) happen.”

Culpeper County Administrator Frank Bossio called the engineers’ report a “good confirmation” of a reasonable cost to save the bridge.

“I’m excited. I think it offers a very viable opportunity,” Mr. Bossio said. “It looks like a good fit for what we want.”

The report, prepared by The Schiffer Group of Traverse City, Mich., has gone to VDOT for analysis. Compiled in conjunction with Workin’ Bridges and Bach Steel, the report concludes that “restoration/preservation of the bridge is a viable option.”

VDOT engineers “still are in the midst of reviewing the report,” spokeswoman Stacey Londrey said. “Once that is done, they will get together with the counties.”

Fauquier County Administrator Paul McCulla expressed cautiously optimism that the Waterloo Bridge will get new life.

“I can’t say I was surprised (by the $1.8 million estimate for restoring the span),” Mr. McCulla said. “PEC had provided us with examples of similar bridges in Texas that had been restored in that price range.

“We’re waiting for VDOT’s take on how they view the (Schiffer) report. The project will have to meet VDOT standards. VDOT would continue to own and maintain the bridge.”

Marshall District Supervisor Peter Schwartz believes “the independent consultant’s report is more credible than VDOT’s.

“It was VDOT’s assumption that the entire superstructure would have to be replaced,” said Mr. Schwartz, whose district includes the Waterloo area of Fauquier. “The (Schiffer) report says most of the steel and metal components still have a lot of life. They just need to be cleaned up and repainted. That looks like the big difference,” between the cost estimates of $5 million versus $1.8 million.

The Schiffer report, Mr. Schwartz added, “significantly improves the odds” of saving the bridge.

“I expect VDOT to conduct an analysis (of the report) with independence and impartiality,” he said. “I’m eager to see VDOT’s analysis. Then, I expect we’ll have another round of discussions.”

Earlier this year, Mr. Schwartz said, “As much as I’d like to see the bridge restored, at ( $5 million to $6 million, it’s a non-starter. If we could get the cost down to $2 million to $3 million, we would have something to talk about.”

The Schiffer report has folks talking.

Waterloo Bridge engineering report by Fauquier Now


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Anton Afterwit · October 13, 2014 at 7:56 am
The cost of the original VDOT repair reported on this site was $0.5 million. The estimate to replace the bridge with a new 2 lane bridge reported on this site was $5.5 million. The PEC chosen out-of-state company provided an estimate to repair the bridge at $1.8 million.

So why is Mr. Schwartz trying to mislead us. The cost to repair the bridge using the PEC engineering firm is actually over 3 times the costs estimated by VDOT and the $5.5 million figure is a red herring that is not comparing apples to apples.

If the voters of Fauquier have no choice, then let VDOT do it for one third of the price instead of paying three times more to an out-of-state firm. At least use local resources and labor if you are going to waste our money.
Lindsay · October 6, 2014 at 9:55 am
This is great to hear. I hope it can be repaired because I love driving over that bridge really slow to take in the view. We should always strive to keep history!
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