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May 17, 2017

Waterloo Bridge renovation makes the most sense

VDOT estimates it would cost $4 million to rehabilitate the metal truss bridge, built in 1878.
By Julie Bolthouse
Piedmont Environmental Council

Known for its distinctive iron and steel Pratt through-truss, the Waterloo Bridge spans the Rappahannock River and links Waterloo and Old Bridge roads in Culpeper to Jeffersonton Road in Fauquier.

It is a historic right-of-way that allowed the transport of agricultural goods and the travel of residents and visitors, for many generations.

It’s a beloved historic and cultural resource, and one that we have received countless calls and emails about from residents concerned it will be lost.

Built in 1878, it was the oldest metal truss bridge still in service in Virginia, before it was shut down in 2014. Truss bridges, once a popular bridge type, are now rare. Since the Virginia Department of Transportation’s first survey of these remaining structures in 1975, we’ve lost 90 percent of them, and another 24 are slated for replacement within the next five years.

When it comes to the future of the bridge, VDOT has evaluated these options:

• Replace with a modern structure at an estimated cost of $6.1 million.

• Rehabilitate for vehicular traffic at an estimated $4 million.

• Rehabilitate for pedestrian traffic at an estimated $3.7 million.

After researching and listening to feedback, we have advocated for Waterloo Bridge to be rehabilitated for continued vehicle use. Here are some of our reasons:

• Replacing it with a new bridge destroys the historical nature of the resource and is estimated to cost more than rehabilitating the bridge.

• The option of rehabilitation for pedestrian and bicycle traffic doesn’t appear to be practical, given the bridge’s remote location and lack of funding options. Additionally, once made safe for pedestrian use, ownership of the bridge would have to be taken over by the counties and ongoing maintenance costs would fall to them. It is our understanding that the counties currently have no interest in this.

• The bridge is deteriorating. If not rehabilitated, the passage of time will eventually force demolition/replacement (the more expensive option).

PEC encourages everyone with an interest in Waterloo Bridge to attend VDOT’s Design Public Hearing from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at the Warrenton Community Center. For more information, visit

The writer is the Fauquier field officers for PEC, based in Warrenton.
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