Traffic should flow over the McCormick Road bridge once again beginning Monday morning.
The bridge, which spans Emmet Street and connects Central Grounds with the western part of the University, will be open by 9 a.m. Monday, after being closed to all traffic for nearly two months. University Transit System buses are scheduled to resume routes over the bridge on Wednesday.
The bridge has been closed since May so crews from Corman Construction of Richmond could replace the bridge structure and deck. The University opted for closing the bridge instead of keeping it open and repairing one lane at a time, which would have lengthened the repair time.
“We wanted the work completed prior to the start of the fall semester,” said Jay Klingel, director of operations and maintenance for Facilities Management.
The Virginia Department of Transportation initially posted an 8-ton weight limit on the bridge in July 2012 after deterioration was found in the bridge deck. Because of the posting, University Transit System detoured its buses around the bridge. With the re-opening, the buses will revert to their original routes.
“We intend to return all routes to the same alignment and time tables as we had before the weight posting,” said Rebecca White, director of the University’s Department of Parking & Transportation. “That means three stops on the library side of McCormick Road – at Alderman Library, Monroe Hall and at the McCormick Road residence halls – and three stops on the Chapel side of McCormick, at the Chemistry Building, Garrett Hall and at the Chapel.”
Charlottesville Area Transit, which runs two buses in University Grounds, is expected to resume its service over the McCormick Road bridge on Aug. 3.
Klingel was impressed with the speed of the repair, which forced the closing of Emmet Street for four nights while the old deck was removed and a new deck was hoisted into place.
Corman replaced the bridge deck and supports, but the abutments, which were still structurally sound, were not changed – so the bridge is the same width. Because nothing was done with the abutments, the work was classified as a repair and not as a replacement.
“In appearance, the bridge is not going to look much different,” Klingel said. “The color and the width of the bridge will be the same and the sidewalks will be the same width.”
One change, however, is that the clearance under the bridge is higher.
VDOT, which owns the bridge and paid for the estimated $1 million repair, agreed to replace the steel beams that supported the deck with pre-cast concrete box beams, raising the clearance by 14 inches to about 13 feet, 6 inches. There had been incidents in the past in which tall trucks collided with the deck supports.
White said the bridge’s reopening is a major relief.
“The McCormick bridge closure had a huge impact on University Transit System,” she said. “We scrambled from the early July announcement of the weight restriction posting until the return of students to put together the best service package we could, given the circumstances.”
Since buses have been unable to use the bridge for little more than a year, she knows people have become used to the alternate routes put in place until the bridge was repaired.
“We are anticipating that some passengers liked where we went during the detours, such as Culbreth Road and a new stop at Thornton Hall,” White said. “We are anticipating these people not being happy about returning to the old routes.”
The bridge reopening will also be a boon to pedestrians, who have had to cross Emmet Street via the pedestrian bridge at Ruffner Hall or the crosswalks at the Central Grounds Parking Garage.