Despite an agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation to monitor the James River Bridge grid deck, Virginia State Police provided only one day of patrol during July, according to an agency spokeswoman.
Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for Virginia State Police, said state troopers were present on the grid deck on July 12 at the request of VDOT.
In June, the state agencies entered the agreement that calls for VSP to use its "best efforts to seek volunteer sworn employees to work paid overtime" to patrol the grid deck in case of inclement weather. VDOT's request came after the agency noticed an uptick in crashes on the newly installed steel grid deck. Between February and July, there were 20 crashes on the grid deck according to VDOT.
Under the terms of the agreement, VDOT has to request the state troopers no later than 3 p.m. the day before, if wet weather is expected. The patrols under the agreement take place Monday through Friday between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. as requested.
According to Geller, VDOT was invoiced for $1,116.02 – for the 7 days state troopers monitored the grid deck in June and $77.23 for the day they patrolled the area in July.
The total days patrolled and cost incurred in August by VDOT were not immediately available on Tuesday.
On July 1, Kayla Williams, an Isle of Wight County woman was involved in a single vehicle accident on the grid deck when she crashed her Ford SUV. She died a day later of her injuries.
VDOT is paying $1 million to install metal studs on the grid deck in an effort to provide more traction on the bridge's grid deck. Preliminary work on the grid deck is expected to start this week, and stud installation is slated to begin after the Labor Day Weekend holiday. The work will take about 3 months to complete, according to VDOT.
Lauren Hansen, a spokeswoman for VDOT, also said state troopers may be requested at the bridge at other times as needed outside of the scope of the overtime agreement. VDOT requested state troopers on the grid deck during the rainy weekend of August 17-18, but no troopers were available, Brooke Grow, a VDOT spokeswoman, said last week.
Geller told the Daily Press that the agency prioritizes responding to nearby accidents over supplying a volunteer for overtime at the grid deck.
The agreement says "state police will evaluate all requests for supportive personnel to ensure state police participation is desirable and feasible."
Geller said state police still regularly monitor and patrol the entire James River Bridge outside of the agreement with VDOT.
"They're still patrolling the bridge from time to time responding to incidents near and around it as part of routine assignments," Geller said. "It's not as if we're ignoring it. Obviously since we know that there have been problems within the vicinity, the troopers will naturally position themselves in vicinity of it, regardless as to whether we get a request from VDOT."
According to Bridget De Rosa, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wakefield, it rained at least 11 days in July on the Peninsula, although it was unclear whether or not each day had rainfall during rush hour times.
The rainfall data was measured using the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, utilized by the weather service, which relies on community reports.
VDOT measured rainfall per month using the same system in a safety audit report released in late July.
De Rosa said the rainfall count was taken from the James River Country Club in Newport News so it is unclear whether or not it rained directly over the James River Bridge on the dates rainfall was recorded.
"I think that it would be safe to say it would be raining near [the James River Bridge] unless there is some weird shower that is going over the country club area and not the bridge," De Rosa said. "It's probably falling in both locations," she said.
De Rosa stressed that it's hard to forecast summer rain because it frequently occurs during sporadic thunderstorms. "On any given day, there's a 20 to 30 percent chance of getting rain," she said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun