Swinks Mill Road bridge repair to start in Fairfax Co. a month after flash flood

Swinks Mill Road
The asphalt washed off Swinks Mill Road during a flood. (Courtesy VDOT)
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Repairs on this damaged road in Virginia could take months. (Courtesy VDOT)
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Crews clear a flood-damaged road in Virginia. (Courtesy VDOT)
VDOT crews remove debris from Scotts Run on Swinks Mill Road. (Courtesy VDOT)
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Swinks Mill Road
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Construction to repair one of the washed out roads in Fairfax County, Virginia, that’s still closed due to last month’s flash flooding will begin by Monday.

A Virginia Department of Transportation crew is set to get to work on Swinks Mill Road at Scott’s Run.

The asphalt of the bridge was lifted off July 8, and water washed away supporting rock and soil from the bridge and approach roadway.

The new bridge will be largely the same as the old one, but with improved concrete barriers on the side rather than the old metal guardrail, and new U-shaped abutments to better retain supporting fill in the future.

“The asphalt was lifted off the beams, the guardrail was shoved and pushed downstream and actually broken off the bridge structure, so you start to assess all of that damage and then you move forward with trying to make repairs,” VDOT Northern Virginia District Structure and Bridge Engineer Gary Runco said.

Swinks Mill Road should reopen by the end of September, but could reopen earlier if everything goes smoothly, Runco said.

There is no timeline yet for permanent repairs to a bridge and the roadway of Kirby Road.

“Little Pimmit Run came up and out of its banks, and basically relocated itself over into the middle of the roadway on Kirby,” Runco said.

Construction plans are expected to include an attempt to put the creek back into its previous banks with new metal walls.

VDOT plans to contract out the Kirby Road repairs due to available crews and the scale of the project. Designs for the bridge upgrades could be completed by Friday afternoon, but a contract is not yet out for bids. It is expected to be issued soon on an emergency basis.

That contracting effort could lead to identifying an estimated completion date sometime next week.

Responding to criticism that VDOT has not acted quickly enough, Runco said road construction is not that simple.

A Virginia lawmaker criticized VDOT last week over repair work that could take months. But Runco said, “You don’t just plop a bridge in, you plan.”

For now, the Kirby Road bridge is open, if a bit nerve-wracking.

“The guardrail is not there and they’re driving directly on the beams … but we’re allowing that to occur because we know we have to get people in and out,” Runco said.

The county is also looking at relining a sewer while it is exposed by the washout.

Repairs to both bridges are meant to strengthen them with new concrete decks poured into the piles, but neither bridge will be raised or extended to address future floods.

“We try to balance having safety and also aesthetics and livability so that we’re not wiping out neighborhoods just to make sure that the water gets under the bridge,” Runco said.

Raising or extending a bridge could mean taking out homes on either side, and similar plans have faced pushback in places, such as Springvale Road and Hunter Mill Road over Difficult Run.

Other roads also remain closed or under repair due to flooding, including Princedale Road in Dale City, where a sinkhole swallowed a car in the days before the July 8 flooding.

The Northern Virginia District has about 350 bridges in need of some type of significant repair.

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