Sunday, August 2, 2015

Van Dorn Street ped bridge to be replaced

The rusted steel pedestrian bridge parallel to Van Dorn Street that passes under I-495 is being replaced. The work is planned to take two weeks, from August 24 to September 7. During that time the bridge will be closed and no detour will be provided. A shuttle bus will run from Oakwood St on the south side of I-495 to Vine St on the north side. Van Dorn Metro is located just to the north of Vine St.

Many pedestrians and bicyclists use this bridge. There are not many options for providing a detour. A shuttle bus is a poor option for cyclists and I doubt that many will use the service.  The county news release does not mention if the shuttle will have a bike rack.

Obviously cyclists can ride on Van Dorn St, a very busy commuter route, but only the most adventurous cyclists will use this option. Temporary sharrows on Van Dorn St during construction would help. Another option is the Clermont Connector located just to the east that is a ped/bike extension of Clermont Dr to Clermont Ave under the Beltway.

From the news release Aging Van Dorn Street Pedestrian Bridge to be Replaced:

Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division (MSMD), a division of Fairfax County's Department of Public Works and Environmental Services, will replace a rusted steel pedestrian bridge located adjacent to Van Dorn Street, where it passes under I-495 in Alexandria. The construction will begin on Monday, August 24 and is anticipated to be completed within two (2) weeks.

During construction, the section of trail that connects each end of the bridge will be closed. Pedestrians and cyclists will be provided shuttle service from Oakwood Road to Vine Street. The shuttle will run between the two locations every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day, for two (2) weeks. Please see the Pedestrian Transportation Plan.

During installation, one of the northbound lanes on Van Dorn St. will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. the following morning. Construction will not cause any delays as the closed lane will be opened during the rush hours from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Traffic concerns were addressed when MSMD received the permit of Transportation Management Plan from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

When the steel bridge is removed, crews will clean and paint the steel beams and piers on which the existing bridge sits. This treatment will prevent corrosion and increase the life span of the piers. The new bridge, made of fiberglass, will consist of 4 bridge spans of approximately 50 and 55-feet each for a total length of 210 feet. Fiberglass was chosen because it will not be corroded by salt used during snow events. Once the bridge is constructed, new LED lights will be installed on the bridge and located such that no glare will saturate the Van Dorn roadway.

The total cost of this project, which is funded by MSMD's infrastructure repair program, is approximately $350,000.

For questions, please contact project engineer Shaukat Faheem by phone at 703-877-2801 or by e-mail

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Thank you for this info.

It should also be noted that the Van Dorn roadway there presents several unique challenges: a very steep hill and awful visibility under the Beltway overpass. I can't imagine trying to ride in the street up that hill, given the speed differential and the traffic volume.

Cyclists might try to use the roadway on the downhill (northbound), but there are a lot of dangers. Motorists regularly exceed the 35MPH speed limit by 15+; they have to ride their brakes pretty hard to avoid doing so. Visibility is also very poor due to the Beltway overpass. First it obscures a driver's view of the valley he is heading towards. When he is finally low enough to get line-of-sight under the Beltway, he will then have a very difficult time seeing into the dark shadows under the bridge, if it is daylight. Given how fast people drive down that hill, they won't have much time to react. I hate to say it, but that road is a SMIDSY waiting to happen.

The best alternative is the Clermont Ave. connector, but it is over a mile away.

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