Sen. Mark Warner, Richmond city officials tour deteriorating Mayo Bridge

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 5:24 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - As Congress continues to go back and forth on a new infrastructure plan, Senator Mark Warner is making the case for Virginia.

On Friday, the U.S. Senator toured some trouble spots along the Mayo Bridge with the Richmond City Bridge Engineer, Dr. John Kim, outlining some of the needs he would hope to see addressed if a plan is passed by Congress.

20,000 cars drive over the Mayo Bridge each day; it is a vital link that has connected Shockoe and Manchester for well over a century.

“This is a bridge we can’t afford to close,” Warner said during a press briefing.

He and other leaders using the bridge to lobby Congress for the need for a new infrastructure bill.

“Infrastructure really isn’t something that should divide us. I haven’t met a Republican or a Democrat that’s a fan of potholes,” said Virginia Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Nick Donohue. “We have 728 structurally deficient bridges in the Commonwealth.”

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) says the term “structurally deficient” means the bridge must be monitored, inspected and maintained. The fact that a bridge is “deficient” does not imply that it is likely to collapse or that it is unsafe.

The Mayo Bridge is one bridge, out of the 21,195 bridges and traffic structures in Virginia, under the same status.

“Think about what would happen to commerce, traffic congestion if you suddenly had to close this bridge for two or three years before it got reopened. You would suddenly have northern Virginia-type traffic here in Richmond. So we got to get this done,” Warner said.

Dr. Kim pointed some flaws in the design during the tour: the lack of what’s called ‘weep holes’, which would drain out rainwater. Because of this, water seeps out through the concrete sides of the bridge, causing discoloration.

Discoloration from moisture and water seeping into concrete/steel structures of Mayo Bridge,...
Discoloration from moisture and water seeping into concrete/steel structures of Mayo Bridge, due to lack of what is known as "weep holes".(wwbt/nbc12)

“If I designed this one as a new one, we definitely have to make weep holes, so that the trapped water may through that, and not through [the sides],” Dr. Kim said.

Dr. Kim also pointed out a 1-9 federal rating system that bridges are graded on; any structure close to 1 would have to close, and Mayo Bridge is graded at 4.

“That’ doesn’t mean “not safe” to cross, it’s more like a check engine sign in your vehicle,” Dr. Kim said.

The infrastructure bill failed in a test vote in the Senate this week, but Senator Warner hopes an updated plan will move forward next week.

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