A key connection between Fredericksburg and Stafford County is due to close for more than a year, likely adding to traffic on roads such as U.S. Route 1.
The Chatham Bridge, which carries Va. Route 3 Business (William Street/Kings Highway) over the Rappahannock between downtown Fredericksburg and the Ferry Farm area, will close for 16 months starting as soon as May 2020, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.
The closure of the more than 70-year-old bridge is expected to send about 16,000 vehicles a day onto other routes.
Allowing a single lane of traffic each way during construction would have created more issues, VDOT’s Kelly Hannon said.
“We found that traffic would have backed up substantially, into the city of Fredericksburg especially, if we did it with one lane in each direction,” Hannon said.
Currently, weight restrictions on the bridge prohibit heavy trucks or certain heavy emergency vehicles.
Repairs will include new beams, a new concrete bridge deck and repairs to existing bridge approaches and supports.
The project also includes a new shared-use path (sidewalk) on the downstream side of the bridge that is about 10 feet wide, to replace the current narrow sidewalks on either side of the road. The new path will have a barrier protecting pedestrians and cyclists from car traffic.
The path will connect to sidewalks in downtown Fredericksburg and the Belmont-Ferry Farm Trail in Stafford County.
To prepare for the closure and detours during the $23.4 million project, VDOT plans to begin work over the next month or so to add or extend turn lanes and install detour signs.
An additional left-turn lane is planned at Dixon Street and Blue and Gray Parkway, and a new traffic light is planned on Route 1 at Princess Anne Street, where VDOT had already been looking into a number of changes.
From Hanson Avenue, drivers will not be able to go across Route 1 to Princess Anne Street or make a left turn onto Route 1 northbound. At the Princess Anne Street ramp to Route 1 northbound, a new traffic light will give a green right-turn arrow from Princess Anne Street. Traffic on Route 1 northbound will not be allowed to turn left onto Hanson Avenue.
“We think about 60% of the traffic is going to travel along the detour route over the Blue and Gray Parkway into the city of Fredericksburg from that direction, with about 40% diverting to Route 1,” Hannon said.
When the Chatham Bridge closes next year, VDOT and Fredericksburg plan to change traffic light timing along the detour route and along Route 1 in the area.
“We know this is a major link between the city and Stafford, but we do think that the enhancements, both for pedestrian travel [and] removing the weight limit, are really critical goals, so we are asking for everyone’s patience as we accomplish this project,” Hannon said.
VDOT plans to provide more details as the closure date gets closer.
The construction comes as work continues on another major Rappahannock River crossing — the Interstate 95 bridge expansion project that will link to an extension of the 95 Express Lanes in a few years.
While the lane closures tied to that work vary based on time of day and day of the week, only the Blue and Gray Parkway and Route 1 will remain fully open over the Rappahannock in the immediate area.