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April 25, 2017

Waterloo Bridge restoration getting another look

Photo/Preservation Virginia
Preservation Virginia in January 2014 put the Waterloo Bridge on its 10th annual list of “Virginia’s Most Endangered Historical Sites.”
Photo/David Lyne
The bridge’s deterioration prompted VDOT first to reduce its weight limit to 3 tons and then to permanently close the span in January 2014.
Photo/David Lyne
The state’s oldest wrought-iron truss bridge spans the Rappannock River west of Orlean.
Waterloo Bridge
• What: Wrought iron truss with wooden deck, erected in 1878; renovated in 1919.

• Where: Waterloo Road (Route 613) across Rappahannock River west of Orlean, connecting Fauquier and Culpeper counties.

• Closed: January 2014 because of deterioration.

• Estimated rehabilitation: $4 million.

• Public hearing: 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, Warrenton Community Center, 430 East Shirley Ave.

• VDOT project info: Click here.

By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Along the western edge of Fauquier County, the state’s oldest metal truss bridge might get rehabilitated after all.

A donor’s $1-million pledge toward the Waterloo Bridge’s restoration apparently helped revive interest after discussion stalled more than two years ago.

The 139-year-old bridge over the Rappahannock River has remained closed since January 2014.

But, the Virginia Department of Transportation will solicit public comments about the Waterloo Bridge’s potential rehabilitation on Wednesday, May 17. The public hearing will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Warrenton Community Center.

It will “gather input on whether or not the project is desired,” VDOT spokeswoman Stacy Londrey said. “We have heard from the PEC (Piedmont Environmental Council), various residents and interests in keeping the bridge, but we’ve also heard on the other side that there are people that think the money would be used better elsewhere.”

VDOT this month unveiled a $4-million proposal that would involve “dismantling and removing the truss structure, making repairs and then reinstalling the bridge,” according to the agency’s website.

“There is no funding identified at this stage,” said Ms. Londrey, adding that the Commonwealth Transportation Board controls funding.

“I would venture to guess we would complete the public comments and take them back to Commonwealth Transportation Board members,” she said. “At that point, if there’s a desire to pursue funding . . . through counties or other sources, then they would move forward with the project or not.”

In 2014, VDOT outlined five options, including construction of a modern, single-lane bridge for an estimated $2.5 million.

For more expensive rehabilitation, the state agency asked Fauquier and Culpeper counties to share the cost.

But, the two affected counties and PEC commissioned an engineering study that put the restoration cost at $1.8 million — less than half the VDOT estimate at the time of $5 million. The topic got little public discussion thereafter.

“I don’t think anyone really knows for sure” why VDOT renewed the conversation, PEC Fauquier Field Officer Julie Bolthouse said Monday. “One (possibility) is the public pressure on them, and two is the fact that we have a donor who has offered a million dollars toward the rehabilitation of the bridge.

“I think that million has changed the tone for VDOT.”

Russell Hitt, who owns Hitt Construction in Falls Church, and his wife Joan earlier this year pledged $1 million toward rehabilitation of the Waterloo Bridge.

“It’s historic. It’s been there for many years,” Mr. Hitt said. “The crossing was there during the Civil War. Hitt (family) property is right up the road about two to three miles . . . and they were there during the Civil War.”

He owns property near the bridge in Rappahannock County.

His pledge “is contingent on getting the bridge rehabilitated,” Mr. Hitt said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. “If they come up and want to put a concrete bridge up there, then I’m not going to do it.

“They can easily repair the bridge and keep it similar.”

If the restoration goes forward, a contractor would move the bridge offsite for restoration.

“Every effort will be made to replicate the look of the historic bridge, including its green paint color,” according to the VDOT website.

“It is conceptual in the sense that it’s not like our other roadway projects or bridge projects . . . because we are working on the structure itself,” Ms. Londrey said. “We won’t know the extent of what will exactly be done until it’s off the road and being worked on.”

The work would include replacing the span’s wooden decking, according to VDOT Project Manager Howard Tomlinson.

But, the project would not improve the rural roadway on either side of the bridge, which spans the Rappahannock, connecting Fauquier and Culpeper counties near Orlean.

After construction, the bridge could reopen to traffic with a 12-ton weight restriction.

Built in 1878, the single-lane span provided a popular shortcut on Old Waterloo Road (Route 613). It connected Leeds Manor Road (Route 688) in western Fauquier to Clevenger’s Corner, where Routes 211 and 229 meet in Culpeper.

VDOT officials decided to close the bridge because extreme deterioration made it unsafe for vehicles, even with a posted weight limit of 3 tons.

Since the closure, the Warrenton-based PEC and some citizens have advocated to save the span for its cultural and historical significance.

Preservation Virginia in January 2014 put the Waterloo Bridge on its 10th annual list of “Virginia’s Most Endangered Historical Sites.”

Still, VDOT’s decision to conduct the May 17 public hearing surprised Ms. Bolthouse.

“We didn’t know this meeting was going to come up,” she said. “I’m really glad to see momentum and movement from VDOT. I’m coming into this meeting cautiously optimistic.”

“The county is very happy there appears to be private partnership money for this project,” Fauquier County Administrator Paul McCulla said Monday. “We are waiting to hear from VDOT what that means and from there will go to the board (of supervisors) to see if they are willing to participate on this new project.

“The board currently doesn’t have any appropriated money for this.”

Waterloo Bridge restoration VDOT public hearing by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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