Temporary weight limit lifted at Norris Bridge

FREDERICKSBURG—A temporary vehicle weight limit of 15 tons has been lifted on Route 3 at the Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge crossing the Rappahannock River between Lancaster and Middlesex counties.

The posted weight limit on the bridge has been restored to allow vehicles carrying up to the legal load limit of 40 tons, and up to 45 tons with blanket permits.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) lowered the vehicle weight limit for Norris Bridge to 15 tons on October 25. The weight limit was immediately lowered after an annual bridge inspection identified potential concerns in two bridge pins, which help to support the bridge beams.

“Further analysis and testing by VDOT’s materials division and the agency’s Research Council identified the cause of the unexpected test results,” said Annette Adams, P.E., VDOT Fredericksburg District structure and bridge engineer. “Using a combination of additional ultrasound testing, X-ray testing and destructive testing, VDOT has determined that the pins are in good condition, and have no flaws or fractures. The pins will remain on the bridge.

“We regret the inconvenience the lower weight posting caused numerous travelers and businesses over the past three weeks. However, for the safety of motorists, we had a responsibility to immediately lower the weight posting and reduce the vehicular load on the bridge upon the initial inspection findings,” said Adams.

“We carefully inspect and monitor every element of the Norris Bridge. Traveler safety and long-term durability of the structure are our top priorities,” she said.

 The two pins under review were installed in the bridge in 2007. The pins meet all materials specifications but were forged from a different class of steel than the original bridge pins. Agency engineers attribute the unexpected ultrasound readings to the difference in the material specifications.

Bridge background

 The Norris Bridge was built in 1957. It is a two-lane, steel truss bridge. It underwent a major rehabilitation in 1996.

 An average of 8,208 vehicles cross Norris Bridge each day on weekdays, and an average of 6,326 vehicles cross the bridge each day on weekends, according to a 2017 traffic count.

 An ongoing maintenance project to paint the three center spans of the Norris Bridge will be underway through June 2018. Temporary traffic signals will continue to control one-way, alternating traffic at the center spans of the Norris Bridge until the project is completed in June.

Painting the bridge’s center spans will protect its structural steel elements and prevent deterioration and corrosion. This project will complete a full painting of the Norris Bridge spans. Additional spans were cleaned and painted between 2009-12.

Future maintenance work planned for the bridge includes a new deck overlay, which would be a new surface that travelers drive on. A contract for this deck overlay was advertised to potential bidders on November 7.