VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The newly-completed westbound span of the Lesner Bridge opened to traffic Friday evening, around 5:15 p.m.
People clapped for the construction crews after the span opened. Some lined up to be the first few to walk and bike across.
The project, which began in June 2014, is replacing the existing Lesner Bridge with a new, expanded bridge, which will eventually feature six travel lanes.
“When we are completed with the project, there’ll be two lanes of traffic on this bridge and two lanes of traffic on the other bridge. We also have a ten-foot wide multi-use path on each bridge,” said project manager Chris Wojtowicz.
The inside lane will be 12 feet wide and the inside shoulder will be six feet wide. The outside lane will be 14 feet wide and the outside shoulder will be eight feet wide.
Eastbound traffic is expected to be shifted to the new westbound span sometime in December so crews can begin demolishing the old bridges and working on creating the eastbound span.
Drivers may notice a few changes, immediately.
“The first thing they’re going to notice, it’s going to be a much smoother ride once they get up on the bridge. The second thing they’re going to notice, it’s a much higher bridge, a little bit steeper grade. I suspect some folks will get a little bit nervous when they see blue sky and don’t see the road ahead of them, but it’s going to be fine,” Wojtowicz said.
Travis Burrell, owner of the nearby Bucketheads Beach Grill, was ready for the new span’s opening and hoped it would send more customers his way.
“I can’t wait to see it finished, and actually see the walk through and the bike path and everything else on it,” he said.
Bob Beauchamp, who lives in the area, checked on the progress Friday afternoon.
“I think it’s great. A long time coming…Especially during storms or hurricanes, I think you can get more cars out of here quicker,” he said.
Wojtowicz said drivers should keep a few things in mind, while crews continue to work.
“It’s a lot of stuff going on in one westbound bridge, so they got to be aware of the other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, so they just got to still understand it’s a construction zone,” he said.
The new bridges will feature softer lighting and grassy areas and will be ten feet apart, he said.