The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is currently developing a plan to replace the one-lane bridge on Walker Road in Great Falls. While exact schematics for the replacement bridge are unknown, the local civic organization already has concerns about what the project could entail.
Eleanor Anderson, with the Great Falls Citizens Association, said, ÒWe havenÕt seen the design yet, but if itÕs anything like what they proposed on Springvale Road, we would oppose it.Ó The proposed bridge on Springvale Road has faded into the background because there was no money for the project. According to Anderson, that bridge would have spanned 200 yards, been raised up, and required the straightening of the road leading to the bridge and leveling off the hilly area around the bridge.
Barbara Zimnoch, the owner of Golden Pineapple in Great Falls, lives off Walker Road near where the bridge is located. ÒIÕm old-fashioned, I guess. I think people should slow down. It has never bothered me to wait for a car at that bridge. ItÕs just part of the charm around here. IÕm not in any hurry,Ó said Zimnoch.
VDOT spokesman Ryan Hall says the project is in the earliest stages of development and years away from being a reality. ÒThis is in the early, early stages. ItÕs not something that would be done in the next year or two,Ó said Hall.
According to Hall, every year VDOT tries to do a couple of small bridge projects and this one popped up on their radar because of its age and some potential safety issues.
ÒWhen it was built it only carried a Model T car. The area is developing and changing. There are different safety issues that need to be addressed now that we are nearly 100 years later,Ó said Hall
The bridge was originally built in 1932 and is 19 feet wide by 22 feet long.
Safety concerns include the ability for fire trucks or ambulances to respond to an emergency quickly while having to navigate that bridge, which requires one lane of traffic to yield to the other in order to pass safely.
ÒI donÕt know why they want to replace it. IÕve never heard anyone say it needs to be fixed. IÕm more concerned about the top of the hill where people pull out from Harriman Street, and by the time they get halfway across, thereÕs a car coming 60 miles an hour over the top of the hill. ThatÕs more important to me,Ó said Zimnoch.
Anderson said a request to change the bridge ÒhasnÕt come from GFCA.Ó
ANDERSON SAID preserving the existing structure is Ònot a question of its historic nature. ItÕs what you do to traffic and the speed on the road if you change traffic. ThatÕs my concern,Ó said Anderson.
A citizens meeting has been called for Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. at the Great Falls Library to review the plans and discuss citizens concerns. Representatives from VDOT will be attending the meeting.
Hall says VDOT has not made any formal decisions and representatives from the organization are looking forward to the meeting next month to get input from the community. ÒDifferent issues will be discussed,Ó said Hall.
ÒCertainly I hope people who live along Walker Road will attend, also board members and anyone else in the community,Ó said Anderson. ÒWe havenÕt seen the plans yet. ThatÕs what the purpose is and to get a dialogue going with VDOT.Ó