Virginia Highway Department has announced that it will add metal studs to the James River Bridge’s new steel deck to help combat what it says is a worrisome rise in car accidents. The cost of the addition is estimated at around $800,000, but officials say it is well worth the expense if it reduces the recent rash of accidents on the bridge.
Highway officials say the move was prompted after a safety analysis of the bridge revealed that there have been 17 grid deck-related accidents on the bridge so far this year. Though 17 might not sound astounding, officials say that is more than the total number of wrecks from the prior six years combined.
When safety officials saw the numbers they say they were shocked and knew that they had to take action to increase safety on the bridge. A study of the accidents discovered that most of the wrecks occurred when the deck was wet and often involved trucks or SUVs. The accidents frequently occurred on the southbound section of the deck and led to 14 injuries and one death so far this year.
The steel deck is actually new, having been replaced late last year as part of a larger project to repair certain aspects of the bridge. Though no specific structural problems were discovered during the recent analysis of the bridge, experts say steel grid decks are frequently known to cause traction problems. Despite these known issues, they are often used because of their lightness and ease of install.
Officials say the new studs will be installed beginning in the late summer and the process will take about three months to complete. Some may not like the addition, given the rough ride they provide. However, the noisy commute is a sacrifice worth making given the extra traction that comes with the studs.
Officials with the Department of Transportation say that before the repairs can take place, they have reduced the speed limit on the James River Bridge to 45 miles per hour during bad weather and will pay the Virginia State Police to increase their presence in the area, something they hope will cause drivers to slow down and drive cautiously.