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VDOT outlines the long journey ahead to replace the Norris Bridge

WHITE STONE—As the proverb goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Interested community members on both sides of the Rappahannock River gathered Tuesday, March 19, for a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) information session as part of the years-long process to replace the aging Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge.

Virginia Department of Transportation representatives have indicated a new bridge to replace the Robert O. Norris Jr. Memorial Bridge will be erected just upriver from the existing structure, or somewhere between here and the bridge. Photo by AnnGardner Eubank

“We are excited for the enthusiasm in moving forward on this journey of the Robert O. Norris Bridge replacement project,” said Marcy Parker, VDOT Fredericksburg district engineer. The replacement bridge represents “the biggest project in the Fredericksburg district and a very significant infrastructure program for Virginia,” she said.

Parker said the final design of the bridge has not been determined, but because minimum standards have changed, the replacement bridge would incorporate those standards, which include increasing the width of the two travel lanes from 11 feet to 12 feet; adding 4-foot shoulders; and increasing the height of the side railings from 32 inches to 42 inches. “These are minimum standards and not necessarily what the design will be.” While roughly 7,500 cars currently make the river crossing daily, it is being designed for the 11,500 vehicles expected by 2050.

Many of those who spoke, like Russ Parkinson of Topping, wanted an even wider bridge, one with shoulders that would allow cars to safely pull out of travel lanes, while others like Roger Martin of Urbanna, suggested also accommodating bike and pedestrian traffic. Kilmarnock resident Steve Bonner also suggested separation between the travel lanes because of the larger trucks that use the bridge.

Bob Hood was interested in the maritime aspects of the new bridge. Parker said VDOT would recommend keeping the 110-foot vertical clearance and 300-foot channel, but cautioned that it was ultimately up to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to determine those….

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