Lesner Bridge replacement to begin soon

The Lesner Bridge in Virginia Beach, photographed on April 11, 2014. (WAVY/Liz Palka)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – The project has been in the works for years. Now, Virginia Beach Public Works says construction of the new Lesner Bridge on Shore Drive is about to begin.

Virginia Beach Public Works Project Manager Chris Wojtowicz said state and federal funding was approved recently. Also, public works has issued the contractor a notice of intent to award. Toward the end of May and beginning of June, drivers will start to notice a difference.

“People are going to start seeing some activity, equipment being moved in,” said Wojtowicz. “They’ll start building the bridge foundations.”

Wojtowicz says this summer, drivers can expect lane shifts at either end of the Lesner Bridge as contractors begin to re-route traffic to make room for the construction.

Wojtowicz explained the two exisiting spans of the Lesner Bridge were built in the 50s and 60s and each had 30-year life span. At this point, Wojtowicz says the bridge has become more expensive to maintain than it would be to build a new bridge, which will have a 100-year life span.

“It’s come to a point where the maintenance of these bridges is going to be costing us more than what building new bridges are,” said Wojtowicz.

As far as funding goes, most of the bridge will be paid for through state funding. The total cost is more than $116 million.

The breakdown is:

  • Local Funding: $19,950,733
  • Federal Contribution: $11,700,367
  • State Contribution: $84,894,964
  • Total Cost: $116,546,064

Eventually the new bridge will be built directly next to the old one. As traffic is re-routed to the new bridge, the old Lesner bridge will be demolished. The entire project is scheduled to take three years.

Once it is complete, it will have new LED lighting, a scenic overlook, and a ten foot-wide pedestrian path that will be separated from the traffic.

“Right now we have only 3 foot-wide sidewalks on each of the bridges which is kind of narrow,” said Wojtowicz.

Wojtowicz said sand from construction will be used for beach replenishment. Also, public works has been permitted to use the pilings and beams from the old Lesner Bridge as an artificial reef. The exact location isn’t known, but Wojtowicz said the artificial reef will go somewhere in the Chesapeake Bay.

Wojtowicz added that the name “Lesner” might not stay. According to the City of Virginia Beach, the current and former Lesner Bridges were named after state Senator John A. Lesner of Norfolk. Wojtowicz said the City hasn’t decided whether they will keep the name. However, if they choose to have a new name, Wojtowicz said the City will give the public the opportunity to name the bridge.

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