Fixing the James River Bridge grid deck will cost at least $200,000 more than previously thought, according to documents from the Virginia Department of Transportation obtained by the Daily Press under the Freedom of Information Act, bringing the total to more than $1 million.
VDOT confirmed on Wednesday it had awarded the contract to affix metal studs onto the steel grid deck to Corman Construction Inc. at a cost of $897,500.
According to an Aug. 1 email sent by VDOT District Structure and Bridge Engineer Jim Long to VDOT District Administrator Jim Utterback, the $897,500 contract, along with costs for construction, engineering and inspection, as well as a 5 percent contingency will bring the total project cost to $1,034,730.
Previously Utterback announced in July the project was expected to cost $800,000. But, according to emails obtained by the Daily Press, that amount was revised when VDOT found a consultant incorrectly calculated the cost of maintaining traffic during construction.
The original rate the consultant used to calculate the cost of lane closures was the standard rate of $2,500 per day.
"Since there are no shoulders on the JRB, lane closures are required to go from the shore which will cost substantially more than a standard closure of $2,500 per day," Long writes in his email to Utterback.
"When you have an operation that takes an entire single lane that makes a huge difference," said Brooke Grow, a VDOT spokeswoman later told the Daily Press on Wednesday.
Also, costs ballooned because multiple lane closures per day will be necessary to complete the work within the time frame outlined by VDOT. The work is expected to take three months. VDOT has not yet announced when work is to begin.
Utterback was not available for comment on Wednesday.
VDOT said in July it would pay to have metal studs installed on the grid deck after law enforcement officials said they noticed a substantial increase in crashes on the James River Bridge, especially during rainy conditions. The new grid deck was completed in 2012 at a cost of $3.8 million. It does not have studs unlike the previous one, which was installed in 1982.
More than 30,000 vehicles travel across the bridge each day. VDOT said there were 20 crashes on the grid deck of the bridge between February and July.
On July 1 an Isle of Wight woman, Kayla Williams, was involved in a single vehicle accident on the grid deck when, according to police reports, she lost control of her Ford SUV and crashed into the median. She died from her injuries a day later.
In 2012, there were only two crashes on the grid deck during the same period, and there were none in 2011. An internal investigation conducted by VDOT did not find any conclusive evidence something was wrong with the bridge, but the agency decided to have the metal studs installed on the grid deck to increase traction for vehicles.
In addition to the new metal studs, VDOT has reduced the speed limit on the grid deck during inclement weather to 45 mph.
The department is also paying Virginia State Police to monitor the bridge's grid deck during rainy conditions.