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May 15, 2017 · OPINION

Waterloo Bridge renovation ‘not a prudent decision’

VDOT will conduct an open house on the Waterloo Bridge’s possible renovation from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at the Warrenton Community Center
By Paul R. Decher

Wise stewardship of taxpayers’ monies should be critical to any decisions regarding renovation of the Waterloo Bridge. I believe it is not a prudent decision to spend monies on the bridge with current transportation and other needs affecting many more people than the few that use it.

The estimated figure of $4 million does not include renovation to Route 613 or future repair and maintenance costs to the bridge which is on a flood plain. There is lead paint on the bridge.

A Virginia Department of Transportation document obtained under the Freedom of Information Act states, “It (single lane replacement of existing structure) does not address the sharp curve on the Rappahannock” (Culpeper?) “side of the structure nor does it address the poor site distance at the intersection with Route 688.”

VDOT says that the $4 million does not address the approach on either side of the bridge, though VDOT has noted that there is a problem on each side of the bridge: “sharp curve and poor site distance. “ All of this could lead to significant cost overruns.

If preservation of the structure is desired, I believe one choice to explore is the shared-use plan. Could there be the possibility of raising substantial donations to reduce cost to taxpayers? The Piedmont Environmental Council staff member who has been spending so much time finding a way for taxpayers to pay for this restoration could instead capitalize on the many passionate bridge advocates. I have no intention of being disrespectful to Facebook clickers and online petition signers, particularly if they back up their convictions with real financial support.

On Jan. 21, 2015, VDOT received a study from Volkert Engineering to identify options to determine the future of the Waterloo bridge. One such proposal was a shared use path for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized users. A parking area was included on the Culpeper side of the Rappahannock river for individuals to park and walk the bridge and enjoy the surroundings. The shared use option estimated total cost at the time of the study was $3.7 million.

VDOT estimates that if the structure is restored the annual maintenance cost would be $20,000, including maintenance and inspection. The shared use option would greatly reduce future costs for repair and maintenance, and the Waterloo Bridge would be saved and open to pedestrians to enjoy. Another option for saving this structure for future generations to enjoy is removing it and placing it in a public park.

Please, know that an open house meeting — it is not a public speaking forum — will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at the Warrenton Community Center. Anyone can drop in between those hours to simply ask questions of the VDOT personnel who will be available to talk one-on-one, and fill out a form that asks, “Do You support this project yes/no?”

Interestingly, there is no request for name and address. Also under the heading “Get Involved” on the VDOT brochure it reads, “Comments can be submitted orally or in writing at the public hearing; by mail to Howard Tomlinson, Project Manager, 1601 Orange Road, Culpeper, Va. 22701; or by e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) Comments must be postmarked, e-mailed or delivered by May 27, 2017, in order to be included in the public record.”

The writer lives in Fauquier near the bridge.
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