I-81 bridge in Radford to get makeover

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The bridge carrying commuters over the New River around milepost 105 in Radford will be getting a much-needed makeover in the next few years.

According to Virginia Department of Transportation Western District representative Jason Bond, the northbound side of the bridge will be replaced, and the southbound side will undergo a series of repairs.

“There was some deck work on the bridges back in the 80s, but I think that was the last time anything’s been done with them,” Bond said. “The bridge is old, it’s deteriorating. It’s just an aging structure that needs work. And now we’ve got the funding to move forward on it.”

The plan is to eventually replace both sides of the bridge, but, Bond said, the northbound side is in much more need of replacement than its southbound counterpart.

“The money’s just not there right now to replace both sides,” he said. “The north has priority, it’s further deteriorated. The south’s not great, but it’ll last a little longer with a few repairs.”

Construction, he estimated, will begin in Fiscal Year 2018 — between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019.

Up until this point, funding for the project was not available. Funding for such projects, Bond explained, does not come from local taxes — it’s state and federally funded. The funding from the state’s fuel tax was its primary source, but all that has changed with the implementation of governor Bob McDonnell’s controversial transportation bill.

“The bill is expected to generate more funding for roads throughout the state, and this is one of the projects that benefits from that,” Bond said.

Delegate Joseph Yost, a supporter of McDonnell’s bill, expressed his opinion on the project and its funding.

“This bridge is vital for interstate commerce and if it wasn’t for the transportation bill, it is likely we would not be able to move it forward until further down the road,” he stated.

The total cost to replace the northbound side of the bridge is estimated at $78.1 million, and the estimated total cost of replacing northbound and repairing southbound is estimated at $113 million. Only $6.1 million has been identified thus far for the southbound repairs, and more will have to be found to begin the project.

“In the next two years there’s nothing coming to us by way of funding, but there’s money identified to work toward finishing the design for the new bridge and repair,” Bond said. The northbound side originally fell short $47 million, but “the public transportation guys identified additional funding to make up the deficit.”

A public meeting was held in June at the Radford Municipal Building in regard to the project and its funding.