The Virginia Department of Transportation was unable to say this week when state police are monitoring the troubled steel grid deck on the James River Bridge.
Despite assurances by VDOT that state police would be positioned on the deck during rainy weather, the agency was not keeping track of when troopers have been present.
"There isn't a log … not at this time," said Lauren Hansen, a spokeswoman for VDOT.
According to an agreement between VDOT and Virginia Department of State Police, traffic enforcement was requested on the bridge grid deck on weekdays 5-8 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. "when wet conditions exist."
Installation of the new $3.8 million grid deck was completed in December 2012. The agreement with state police was put in place on June 1 after VDOT noticed an uptick in crashes in the vicinity of the grid deck. The department said there were 20 crashes on the grid deck between February and July, including a fatal accident on July 1 that killed Kayla Williams, 20, from Isle of Wight.
On July 24, VDOT Hampton Roads District Administrator Jim Utterback announced metal studs would be added to the grid deck to provide additional traction. That work — which is slated to begin next week — will take nearly 3 months to complete at a cost of about $1 million.
According to state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller, troopers give nearby accidents priority over patrolling the grid deck. The agreement says Virginia State Police "will use its best efforts to seek volunteer sworn employees to work paid overtime" to patrol the grid deck.
"The way it was explained to me was it was a Monday through Friday, as needed basis type of thing," Geller said. "We've had staffing shortages. This time of year everyone's trying to take vacation."
Geller was not immediately able to provide dates and times for state police patrols on the bridge.
The decision to request troopers must be made by VDOT officials by "no later than 3 p.m. the day before a forecasted wet weather event," according to the agreement. But anticipating wet weather can be difficult during the summer in Hampton Roads, when typical forecasts call for at least some chance of rain almost every day.
According to the agreement, VDOT will reimburse state police for the overtime spent patrolling the bridge, plus mileage and a 10 percent "administrative fee." The Daily Press requested information from VDOT regarding the amount of money paid to state police, but Hansen said the department has not yet received an invoice.
In addition to weekday peak hours, Hansen said VDOT may request patrols during off-peak and weekend hours as needed, beyond the scope listed in the agreement.
The Daily Press received several inquiries from the public asking why troopers were not on the bridge during rainy weather last weekend.
Brooke Grow, a VDOT spokeswoman, said on Tuesday that the department requested troopers over the weekend but none were available. Geller said state police were short on manpower over the weekend due to traffic accidents and commitments to the Southampton County Fair.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun