CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has posted the Genito Road (Route 604) bridge over Swift Creek in Chesterfield County from 12 tons to three tons as the result of findings in a recent structural inspection.
VDOT said that bridge inspectors today found fatigue cracks and corrosion on several steel beams. For driver safety, VDOT has decreased the maximum vehicle weight to reduce the amount of stress on this 70 year old bridge.
"We always err on the side of caution," said Shawn Smith with Chesterfield County Public Schools. "In this instance we are going to re-route our buses, go a little bit out of the way, add a little bit more time to the route but it's the safest thing possible for our students and our parents."
About 20 buses, carrying hundreds of students, are taking another way across Swift Creek.
"It will add about 8-10 minutes to the schedule. Understand we're going to have to go about 5-6 miles outside of our normal routes," said Smith.
The buses, like so many other large vehicles, weigh more than 3 tons - which is right now the maximum weight allowed.
Could the bridge essentially crumble? "Well, that's the potential," said Dawn Eischen with VDOT.
Even emergency responders won't get special treatment on the bridge that use to carry 20 ton trucks.
"With that type of restriction we have to develop alternate run responses to better serve that area," said Bryan Swanson with the Chesterfield Fire Department.
Any emergency calls placed from locations above the 15000 block of Genito Road could feel the minimal affects. The DMV is prompting truck drivers to avoid the bridge. VDOT has posted signs on the approaches to the bridge indicating the reduced weight limit. Local police are responsible for enforcing the restriction.
"We'll do frequent checks on this," said Eischen.
8500 vehicles zoom through each day. If your vehicle weighs more than over 3-tons- tack on time. VDOT recommends drivers of vehicles over three tons use the following alternate routes:
The Genito Road bridge over Swift Creek was last inspected in October 2009. At that time, inspectors found a fatigue crack in a steel beam. The deterioration indicated the need for a more in-depth follow up inspection.
The bridge was built in 1939 to carry no more than 12 tons—well below today's standards. "Replacement is the only option at this point in order to bring this bridge to full capacity," said Gary Martin, district bridge engineer. "It would cost approximately $3 million to replace this bridge." At this time, VDOT has no plans or funding to replace the bridge.
For more information on VDOT's bridge inspection program and to see a video of a bridge inspection, visit http://www.virginiadot.org/info/bridge.asp.
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