Posted by Colby Rogers
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The popular Belle Isle footbridge reopened to the public Friday after crews built a canopy over the walkway.
The footbridge closed last month after a piece of concrete fell from the Lee Bridge high above it.
After more than a month of being off-limits to bikers and runner, the gates were finally swung back open on the first day of spring.
After just a few minutes of being open, the first runner was already taking advantage.
"I ran up like 5 minutes ago and saw the gate was closed," said runner Neal Livesay, "when I ran back, it was open."
James Picard normally runs a 10-mile course that includes Belle Isle every day, but since the bridge closed, he's had to take a detour.
"I'd have to go to the floodwall," Picard said. "Adds like three miles to the run. It's very nice to have Belle Isle back."
Richmond Dept. of Public Works officials say they'll now be able to concentrate on the task at hand - repairing the damage to the Lee Bridge.
"Obviously we want to make the repairs from where debris fell from. If any other repairs need to be made we'll do that too," said DPW Director Dexter White. "As long as it's necessary the scaffolding will stay up."
Ultimately, the Lee Bridge will be the focus, officials say. The 20-year-old structure is due for its official inspection in April.
"There's some specialized equipment that needs to be used to thoroughly investigate the structure itself," White said. "Its going to be timely inspection - more than a one month, one year to determine if anything needs to be done."
Officials are asking that bikers to walk their bikes through the stretch of the bridge that runs under the scaffolding to prevent handlebars from bumping into the structure.