Bridge work upsets rural community

By Ben Garbarek - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A bridge at the dividing line of Cumberland and Powhatan counties will soon close for repairs. Many people are not happy about the project- especially those living in the tiny town of Cartersville.

The Cartersville Road bridge will be shut down for six months while VDOT makes repairs. It's located on Rte. 684. It's a small bridge that could soon start creating large headaches. Locals say closing this bridge will hit them where it hurts the most: their wallets.

James Pleasants is known around Cartersville simply as "Spikey". He runs a general store in Cartersville.

"We need every customer we can get to come through the front door," he said. "The bridge being out for six months will hurt for sure."

VDOT says the bridge is in dire need of repair and it has over $700,000 of stimulus money to fix it. The bridge is not about to collapse, but repairs to the deck and support beams are needed. But that poses a problem for neighbors like Dick Baltimore who say that bridge is one of the few options for drivers in Cartersville.

"The problem we see is that there is only two ways out of this county, that being a very main thoroughfare," Baltimore said. "By closing that bridge completely without having any access across is a real problem."

Locals say they want crews to work on half the bridge and allow for one lane of traffic to stay open. VDOT says the bridge isn't wide enough and keeping a lane open would delay work and double the cost of the project. Some residents even proposed building a temporary bridge. But that would also cost hundreds of thousands of dollars that VDOT says it doesn't have.

Locals say many first responders come from Powhatan County, cross this bridge and come into Cumberland County and closing this bridge could cause some serious delays for someone in an emergency.

"Very realistically it could create a life or death situation if a rescue vehicle cannot exit this end of the county because of the closed bridge," Baltimore said.

For local business owners like Spikey, he says it's tough to get a customer back once they get used to going somewhere else.

"Any time you lose an avenue of traffic coming into your store, it's going to hurt the bottom line," Pleasants said. "Times aren't as good as they were."

Construction will start on Monday and continue until May.

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