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No one is bridging the gap

Thursday, May. 8 | By Julie Taylor
Photo by Adam Goings
Heavy machinery waits for construction to re-commence. The bridge over Goose Creek in Markham was closed last November because it was unsafe. Originally scheduled to re-open in March, construction has been pushed back and an expected opening date hasn't been determined.
Markham residents are getting upset over the extended closure of a nearby bridge, which dates back to 1925.

On Nov. 12 the Virginia Department of Transportation closed Route 724/Sage Road in the north western end of Fauquier County to replace the bridge over Goose Creek.

The old bridge was determined to be unsafe, and required immediate closure. However, the bridge was supposed to be open more than a month ago.

A VDOT press release that was published last November said,"The work is expected to be complete and the road reopened to traffic on March 19."

Lou Hatter, media representative for VDOT, recently said, "Until all the necessary materials have been purchased I cannot provide an expected opening date. Once the materials are in hand, a construction schedule will be determined."

Hatter said that the original design was a specialized type of substructure construction to speed the project, but it didn't receive any bids form contractors.

"The lack of bidders required that the replacement structure be redesigned for conventional construction, which delayed the start and will increase the construction time," Hatter said.

Markham residents are affected in different ways. According to Hatter, some have an increased drive time of up to 10 minutes. Area residents said the increased drive time is 13 miles, but are also voicing irritation over other components.

"I measured the mileage," said Warren Montouri. "I have a farm there, and people that work on my farm use the road frequently. They have children that go to school"

Montouri and others said that the school bus has cut its route short after it slid on a patch of ice as it attempted to make its way through the gravel detour.

He said after that incident Peter Schwartz, the district's supervisor, was instrumental in getting the detour repaired.

However, Kelley Walker said the gravel washes out during every heavy storm.

Walker and her husband Joe are impacted on a personal and professional level.

Their home and Dark Hollow Farms is on one side of the bridge, and their store is on the other side.

"I live less than half a mile from the store," Kelley said. "It now takes me 15 minutes [to take the detour]. Unfortunately we are the very first driveway as soon as you come off the bridge."

Kelley, a homeschooling mom, said she witnessed five full days of construction between November and December.

The Walkers rent a plot of land between on the other side of the bridge that they want to raise chickens on. Yet the cost associated with the increased distance causes Kelley to believe they wouldn't make a profit.

Another prominent issue is mail service, "There's no mail delivery there anymore," said Montouri. "They have to go to the post office in Markham."

"The average daily traffic across the bridge was 38 cars per day," said Hatter.

Though the problem affects a small number of people physically, there is question whether this is an unnecessary financial hardship for the rest of Fauquier residents.

"As a taxpayer this bothers me," said Montouri. "Just as you turn into Sage Road you can see the equipment that is there that has been sitting idle for months and months. You can see that it's all rentals," Montouri said.

Hatter said that various pieces of equipment have been there throughout the process, and the current machinery has been there for one to two months.

"We've got three pieces of equipment out there. An excavator that was brought in on March 4, a large water pump brought in the 18th of March, and a rubber tired loader on the 2nd of April," Hatter said.

As of now, the excavation of the north footing, and the revised design are complete. Materials for the new bridge are being procured, according to Hatter.

He said they will begin construction on one of the abutments when the weather clears up.

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