Residents worried over crumbling bridge; VDOT maintains its safety

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NORTHERN NECK, Va. – There are two ways to cross the Rappahannock River into the Northern Neck; one involves a boat and the other a bridge that local drivers say is crumbling apart.

On Monday drivers snapped pictures of a 44-foot portion of the Robert O. Norris Bridge that showed cracked concrete – it’s the second time this has happened in the past couple of weeks, they said.

White Stone resident Lisa Smith says she's been wary of the bridge for a while and wants to know what it will take to fix it.

Her daughter used to sing "London Bridge is falling down" whenever they crossed over it, she said.

A submitted picture of crumbling concrete

A submitted picture of crumbling concrete

"I’d be like no no no no no no no! Shush! It was cringe worthy. Chuckle and cringe at the same time,” Smith said.

The Virginia Department of Transportation maintains that the Norris Bridge is structurally safe.

The concrete that is driven on is aging, they said, and will soon need to be replaced. But until then the plan is to patch up problem spots.

Jason Bellows, with the Lancaster County Board of Supervisors said it looks worse than it actually is.

The Robert O Norris bridge

The Robert O Norris bridge

"It's the visual stuff that makes people fearful, but in reality that stuff is just minor blemishes to the surface and not really structural,” Bellows said. “It's really important that people understand it safe to cross the Norris Bridge."

Still, some Northern Neck residents who use the Norris each day said they're tired of band-aid jobs, and want to steer the discussion towards replacing the bridge.

“They patched it repeatedly,” Smith said. “How many times are we going to patch it?"

“We’re not going to have a new bridge next year, I know it takes a lot of money, but I would like to know when are they going to start the process,” said Middlesex County resident Maria Johnson.

A group of legislators who represent the area recently sent a letter to VDOT and asked them to look into replacing the bridge.

There are some major obstacles. The cost of replacing is more than VDOT sets aside for this region and would require special funding.

In an ideal world, sources said it would take five to 10 years to build a new one.

Still, residents here said they simply want to be involved in talks about the future of this Northern Neck landmark. They've also started a petition to have the governor replaced the bridge.