Jordan River Bridge Under Threat

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Jordan River Bridge in December. Photo by Claire Catlett.
map of the jordan river bridge in rappahannock county
Map by Watsun Randolph.

Dear Supporter,

I am writing today to let you know a beloved local resource in Rappahannock County, the Jordan River Bridge, is under threat and slated for demolition and replacement this summer.

In December, VDOT and the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors approved the replacement project, despite local residents’ outcry of support for rehabilitation of this historical community treasure.

The Jordan River Bridge is a one-lane, metal truss bridge constructed in 1935 from a span of bridge built in 1909 in Madison County. It is one of only about 40 metal truss bridges left in Virginia, an estimated 10 percent of similar bridges that existed in 1975.

It’s the type of historic and cultural resource that makes living in and visiting Rappahannock County so special. At the very least, VDOT and local elected officials should explore and determine exactly what it would take to save the bridge and make it safe again.

Ask VDOT and the Rappahannock Board of Supervisors to consider rehabilitating the Jordan River Bridge

Options for rehabilitation should be developed and fully vetted prior to making any final decision on the bridge’s fate.

“Demolition By Neglect”

Unfortunately, VDOT has a habit of letting these unique bridges be replaced through a process known as “demolition by neglect.” Communities across the Commonwealth have seen maintenance deferred on these structures until it is too late. This has allowed the transportation agency to ignore calls for preservation of the structures, claiming it is too late to repair or rehabilitate structures that are a part of the cultural fabric of an area.

In 2014, the Waterloo Bridge, another historic metal truss bridge, just outside Warrenton, faced a similar fate. VDOT had plans to demolish and replace that structure without considering rehabilitation as an option. Only after pressure from PEC, community members, and elected officials from Fauquier and Culpeper counties did VDOT agree to consider rehabilitation alternatives (it’s on track to open back up this year).

waterloo bridge
The Waterloo Bridge was another metal truss bridge slated for demolition and replacement in 2014. VDOT helped manage its rehabilitation and it should open back up this year. Photo by C. Hanchey, Flickr.

Since we started working to save the Waterloo Bridge over six years ago, we have been researching and submitting comments to VDOT regarding the lack of maintenance and resulting proposals to replace historic bridges in Virginia. While some progress has been made to document those bridges that remain in use, Virginia continues to lose these resources and VDOT still does not have a comprehensive plan for their ongoing care and maintenance. We made this point in a recent letter to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Join us in the effort to highlight the Jordan Bridge as the latest potential victim of this destructive policy.

Please write to VDOT’s Culpeper District and the Rappahannock Board of Supervisors today to let them know of your desire to have a full assessment of the options for rehabilitation and replacement before any final decision is made. One concern we have is that VDOT often overestimates rehabilitation costs as a means to push for full replacement. Therefore, it is critical to have all the options and related cost estimates for this project.

Don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know if you have any questions.


Claire Catlett
Rappahannock County Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council