VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) - The Virginia Department of Transportation presented its findings Wednesday following a three-month analysis of the James River Bridge grid deck and roadway.
The analysis comes after officials and the public noticed an increase in crashes on the bridge following the replacement of the steel grid deck last year.
At the presentation Wednesday, VDOT said they noticed an increase in crashes two months after the steel grid deck was replaced. There were 20 accidents on the JRB between Febuary and June, according to VDOT's report.
"Safety is paramount. As soon as we recognized this was a problem we started looking at it," said Hampton Roads VDOT adminstrator Jim Utterback.
VDOT's evaulation also showed that the crashes on the JRB had common links.
"Most of the accidents were on the southbound, in wet conditions, and they primarily
involved sports utlity vehicles or trucks," Utterback said.
During those exact conditions, 20-year-old Kayla Williams died during a vehicle crash earlier this month. VDOT says they plan to make immediate changes to make the deck safer. They plan to install studs on the grid deck surface to help provide "enhanced vehicle traction."
VDOT also plans to add new signs to the bridge warning drivers of slick conditions in the rain. Another sign will prompt drivers to stay in their lane on the grid deck. If these measures do not work, VDOT officials say they will try more aggressive traffic calming measures, like adding rubble strips on the deck, or putting different print schemes on the bridge roadway.
VDOT said it will begin installing the studs late summer/early fall. It is expected to take about three months to complete, with an estimated cost of $800,000.
Drivers will be given notice before the work begins, including any related lane closures.
Through the analysis, VDOT examined possible crash factors such as driver behavior, mechanical failures and road deficiencies. VDOT identified a variety of options that could heighten standard safety measures and driver awareness. Those include:
- Continued use of overhead electronic message signs to post the 45 mph advisory speeds during inclement weather
- Continued presence of Virginia State Police during inclement weather
- Installation of "Slippery When Wet"/"Steel Deck" signs
- Installation of "Stay in Lane" signs, along with solid white double lane lines
- Continued monitoring of crashes to determine the effect of mitigation strategies and modification to the grid deck to increase friction and skid resistance
- Use of traffic calming devices to slow down traffic in the event that further safety options prove necessary
To view the James River Bridge Grid Deck Report and Roadway Safety report, click here .
VDOT's evaluation did not find a link between the new steel grid deck and the increase in accidents. Officials say they are erring on the side of caution by implementing the new changes.
"Everybody is disappointed in the crashes on the bridge," Utterback said. "We take this matter seriously and
the staff takes it seriously."
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