Franklin Road Bridge demolition to begin Tuesday

By Rob Manch - Reporter

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - A two-year long construction project is about to kick off in Roanoke next week, and it could impact your commute.

The Franklin Road bridge is going to be replaced after more than 70 years in service.

The city already has signs up warning drivers of the coming construction.

The first step to replacing this bridge is to demolish it, so starting Tuesday, it won't be available for any vehicles to cross.

City Engineer Phil Schirmer says the current bridge is in poor condition, and demolition is a cheaper option long-term than making repairs.

The project is expected to cost $13.5 million, but he says VDOT will be footing half of the bill.

Thankfully for traffic, only the bridge itself will be closed.

"The ramp to southbound route 220 will remain open throughout the project, as well as the ramp from 220 onto Franklin Road," said Schirmer.

But for drivers used to going across the bridge, there will be detours.

When construction begins starting on Tuesday, drivers heading south on Franklin Road will have to take a left when they get to the intersection with Elm Avenue.

For drivers heading north, they'll look for the intersection with Reserve Avenue to take a right to connect with Jefferson Street to make their way around the planned construction.

Besides regular commuters, the closure could have an impact on emergency services.

"The biggest issue is probably going to be the traffic that can't go over that bridge has to go the alternate routes may slow things down a little bit going around," said Roanoke Deputy Fire Chief Billy Altman.

Altman says crews have already been briefed on the alternate routes, but the department is monitoring the situation.

"Two years is a long time to be closed, so if we see that we are having issues, we can make adjustments pretty quick for it," said Altman.

Schirmer says part of the reason the project has such a long time-frame have to do with the Norfolk Southern train-tracks beneath it.

"It is a very active rail line underneath this bridge, so we had to work with them to find places that they could work within their schedule to allow us to get in and do the bridge demolition as well as the reconstruction," said Schirmer.

Schirmer says the project has been through four years of planning, and the goal is to beat the two year timeline.

Schirmer tells me on average, people will see about one to two minutes added to their drive time, but that could change in heavy traffic.

The bridge will officially close at 8 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

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