Norfolk District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is moving ahead with its state and city partners on the Deep Creek Bridge Replacement Project in Chesapeake, but ongoing real-estate acquisition challenges could have an impact on next year’s solicitation and construction schedule.
The district anticipates advertising the bridge contract in January, with a construction award set for sometime next spring, but that’s contingent on getting all the real-estate property interests that are needed before December, Corps officials said.
“This is a critical project for the community, and we are dedicated to the construction of the bridge and will continue to pursue the acquisition of the remaining property interests in a fair and legal manner,” said Col. Patrick Kinsman, Norfolk District commander. “Some of the real-estate interests we need are just temporary areas where we might need to go onto a piece of property for a few days or few weeks in order to get some work done, like putting in curbs or drainage ditches, or small areas where we need a few feet to widen the curve of the upgraded road – or even places to lay down equipment while we’re working.
“But these are still property interests, and every one of them requires meticulous work, documentation and negotiation with the owners, and that can sometimes be a lengthy process.”
Built in 1934, Deep Creek Bridge is a federally owned and operated two-lane bridge that crosses the Dismal Swamp Canal and Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway at U.S. Route 17 in Chesapeake’s Deep Creek section. The single-leaf drawbridge is considered functionally obsolete because of increasing traffic, a very narrow roadway and poor alignment with connecting roads.
The old two-lane bridge will be replaced by a structurally sound 144-foot-long, 60-foot-wide, five-lane, dual-leaf drawbridge. The project, estimated at about $50 million, is fully designed and includes approaching roadway improvements.
Walt Trinkala, Norfolk District project manager, said USACE continues working to replace this aging piece of infrastructure, which will alleviate a major traffic chokepoint.
“We are always mindful of our roles in getting this bridge replaced to better and more safely serve the public, improve quality of life and business in the area, and ensure that affected landowners are fairly and fully compensated and the public and taxpayer dollars are properly utilized,” he added. “We understand the need for the bridge and traffic impact in the area. We are pushing hard to get the project awarded and built.”
As of Monday, six of 40 parcels needed for the project do not yet have a signed agreement, according to district real-estate officials.
Donna Carrier-Tal, chief of Norfolk District’s Real Estate Office, says her office is working diligently with property owners to gain cooperation and she remains focused on wrapping up agreements with utility companies needed for the bridge project.
“We work to ensure that property owners are fully and fairly compensated with full fair-market value for their property and any applicable relocation costs or damages. We don’t ‘bargain’ or try to ‘get a good deal,’” Carrier-Tal said. “The fair-market value of the property is based on an appraisal by an independent, third-party appraiser, which is reviewed and approved by a certified government review appraiser. We are more than willing to work with landowners in helping them understand the process, answer their questions, listen to their concerns and consider additional information.
“We are optimistic about being able to obtain all the property interests and rights for the bridge, and our process also allows us to get help from the Department of Justice, if needed, to be sure we can get all of the required pieces in place for construction.”
In addition to acquiring a footprint for the bridge, the district is working with utilities to get easements for their utility lines.
Dominion Energy and Verizon have signed utility-relocation agreements and are moving forward with acquiring necessary easements, Trinkala said. A Cox relocation package has been agreed upon and is awaiting signatures. Negotiations continue with Columbia Gas of Virginia.
The city of Chesapeake and Norfolk District plan to host a joint public meeting on the Deep Creek Bridge Replacement Project in the near future. A date hasn’t been announced.