Bad news: The Interstate 95 overpass above the Boulevard is falling apart.
Good news: The new soothing heather-green structural I-beams reinforcing the 49-year-old bridge should keep traffic safe until planned renovations happen in the next few years.
Beginning in mid-June, the Virginia Department of Transportation began work to shore up the bridge after inspectors noticed last November what drivers had known for quite some time -- that softball-sized chunks of concrete were occasionally detaching themselves from the bridge structure.
"There has been some concrete loss over the last few years," VDOT spokeswoman Dawn Eischen says, noting that the bridge looked a lot worse than its actual condition, and that it remains safe for traffic.
"What we're doing right now there are some areas that have some exposed rebar," she says. "The continuous loss of concrete could have created stress on the bridge. The last thing we want to do is to put motorists in a situation that's unsafe."
The repairs were initiated after the bridge's semi-annual inspection indicated that unless measures were taken, weight limits on the bridge might become necessary.
"That's a safety issue if we ever have to do that," Eischen says. She expects the repairs to be done in early August, noting that no delays are expected on I-95. "We'll do [work on top of the bridge] during non-peak hours probably overnight."
Though the I-beams take care of the short-term safety concerns, Eischen says, they are not a permanent solution. The long-term fix is in a planned I-95 overpass/underpass bridge rehab recently approved for the current VDOT six-year plan and expected to begin in 2010. That larger rehab project will involve overpass and underpass bridges along I-95 within the city limits.
"This is to get us through until the major fixes come," Eischen says. S