VDOT open to historic bridge repair

Efforts to save the Waterloo Bridge near Orlean will get a closer look from a working group from Fauquier and Culpeper counties.

The metal truss bridge, built in 1878, fed traffic over the Rappahannock River on Route 613 at the Fauquier County border with Culpeper County before it was closed in January of 2014 by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) because of safety concerns. It was used daily by 680 vehicles.

The Piedmont Environmental Council, in favor of rehabilitating rather than replacing the bridge, used the one-year anniversary of the closing to chide VDOT.

â??It’s frustrating to still see large concrete barriers block the entrances to one of the oldest metal truss bridges in the Commonwealth,â? Julie Bolthouse, Fauquier County land use officer for the PEC, said in a message to supporters on Jan. 15.

â??What’s more frustrating is that even though there is overwhelming support from Culpeper and Fauquier residents to save the bridge and there’s a study showing rehabilitation is far cheaper than replacement, VDOT has remained silent.â?

That was a reference to a study the PEC and Fauquier and Culpeper counties commissioned that said the bridge could be restored for $1.8 million.

Initial VDOT estimates had put the cost of rehabilitation at $5 million. The PEC noted that VDOT has the bridge on its schedule for replacement at an estimated cost of $9 million.

VDOT met with representatives of the two counties last Thursday to talk about the bridge and creating a working group to look at options for its repair.

VDOT took note of the interest in the bridge’s fate when it posted a â??project updateâ? on its website after the meeting:

â??Thank you to all who have contacted VDOT recently about the Waterloo bridge; your requests for restoring the existing bridge have not gone unheard.â? VDOT undertook its own analysis in late 2014, according to its site. â??The results of that analysis, coupled with local support, lead us to agree that preserving the historic character of the bridge is an achievable goal,â? said the project update.
VDOT met with officials with Culpeper and Fauquier counties on Jan. 22. They decided to form a working group to find ways to repair the bridge â?? and find funds.

â??The PEC will be invited to participate,â? said the project update.

Bolthouse welcomed the turn of events.

â??We are greatly encouraged by VDOT’s announcement and are looking forward to working with them to find a way to rehabilitate Waterloo Bridge so that this piece of engineering history and our cultural heritage can continue to be enjoyed,â? she said.

Wendy Wheatcraft, preservation planner with the Fauquier County Department of Community Development, said the Waterloo Bridge is the only remaining bridge of four that were built in the 1800s by the two counties and was the first to go up. â??It is a cultural resource,â? she said.

Fauquier County Administrator Paul McCulla attended the meeting last week at VDOT’s district office in Culpeper. Frank Bossio, Culpeper County administrator, represented his county. They met with VDOT Culpeper District Administrator John D. Lynch and three engineers on his staff.

McCulla said that Lynch suggested that a working group look at the two studies, VDOT’s and the one done by the two counties and PEC, in an effort â??to see how we can narrow the differenceâ? in cost estimates for bridge work. The group will meet with representatives of the two engineering firms that did the studies. In addition to county administrators, Culpeper board member Brad Rosenberger along with Fauquier boardâ??s Peter Schwartz will join the working group.

They will try to see â??if there is a number that we can agree on with respect to the bridge and what the costs will be,â? McCulla said.

Identifying outside funding sources, including grants, will be another part of their work.

The two county administrators are members of Identifying outside funding sources, including grants, will be another part of the working group.