Flaws found in Downtown Richmond bridges

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Richmond's aging bridges are becoming a bigger safety concern.  Certain trucks and larger vehicles are no longer allowed on two city bridges, the Fifth and Seventh Street Bridges that pass over Leigh Street in Downtown Richmond.

According to the city, these bridges are still safe for most passenger cars.

Routine inspections found flaws in the bridges. The city said the two overpasses, which are on a list to be replaced, don't meet federal safety guidelines for heavier loads.

Even our own brief exam found visible defects. We saw damage where the bridge meets support walls, exposed metal grating and chunks of cement stripped away.

Richmond Public Works was quick to point out the federal definition of "structurally deficient" doesn't mean the bridges are unsafe. The department developed weight restrictions so the streets can still be used.

Single-unit vehicles like dump trucks, package delivery trucks and buses weighing 25 tons can't pass. Larger trucks like tractor trailers weighing 34 tons won't be allowed either.

If you're concerned about kids on school buses driving over those bridges, you're in the clear.  We checked in with Richmond Public Schools and its buses are below the weight restriction. They come in at 20 tons.

Richmond Fire trucks are a different story. Almost all department vehicles weigh more than 25 tons.

"We've taken into consideration the issues and we've planned accordingly," Lt. Robbie Hagaman said.

The department canvassed the area to make sure there wouldn't be any access issues.

"This fire station here is a couple blocks away," he explained at Station Five. "Subsequently on the other side of the bridges, there's another fire station. So it's not going to hinder response times at all. You're still going to get a station just as quick as you were before."

You'll see signs posted before and on each bridge listing those weight restrictions. Heavier vehicles will be rerouted.

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