The (mostly in shape) bridges of Rappahannock County

VDOT’s ratings indicate most county bridges are at least ‘satisfactory’

There are nearly 100 bridges in Rappahannock County — 98, to be exact, according to Virginia Department of Transportation records. And while the majority of them are in good shape, 16 have received VDOT ratings of a 4 (out of 9) or below, indicating some part of them is in poor condition.

A perfect 9 rating: the recently rebuilt bridge on Richmond Road over Battle Run. Photo by Dennis Brack.
A perfect 9 rating: the recently rebuilt bridge on Richmond Road over Battle Run. Photo by Dennis Brack.

Virginia’s bridges are rated by VDOT engineers, on a scale of 0 to 9, in three categories (before they’re assigned an overall bridge sufficiency rating of from 1 to 100). Categories divide the bridges into three components: the deck (the supporting surface of the bridge; what you drive over), the superstructure (steel beams, concrete frames or whatever else structurally supports the deck); and substructure (the bridge’s foundation).

That said, the majority of Rappahannock’s bridges — 90 of its 98 — received a rating between 6 and 8 in at least one category, indicating they are in “satisfactory” to “very good” condition, with minor or no problems detected.

Only four county bridges received a perfect 9 (“excellent”) rating in any category — on Richmond Road, over Battle Run; on Hunters Road, over the Covington River; on Rock Mills Road, over the Rush River; and one in Harris Hollow, also spanning the Rush.

That Richmond Road bridge was last inspected on Sept. 24, 2012, shortly after it was replaced (VDOT’s inspections are done on a continuing basis year-round). And it was the only bridge in the county to receive three perfect ratings, though it did not receive the highest sufficiency rating — a measure of a bridge’s fitness which factors in aspects other than its structural integrity, such as how essential it is to the area.

That honor went to a second bridge farther south on Richmond Road, installed in 1997, which scored a near perfect 99.6 sufficiency rating, despite not earning a single 9 in any category (it earned three 8s, however).

On the other hand, 36 county bridges received a 5 or lower in one of the categories; 16 of those earned at least one 4 (or “poor”) rating. No bridge received lower than a 4 in Rappahannock.

Only two bridges received more than one 4 in their ratings — the bridge on Jericho Road over Big Indian Run, and one on Old Massies Corner Road, which crosses Battle Run. A rating of 4 indicates some “advanced section loss, deterioration, spalling [i.e., chipping or crumbling] or scour.”

The Jericho Road bridge is among those included in VDOT’s six-year repair and replacement schedule for Rappahannock County. County Administrator John McCarthy said that will be the first bridge replaced under the plan, most likely within the next three years.

By comparison, nearby Madison County has a much lower number of overall bridges — VDOT lists only 65 in its 322 square miles, as opposed to the 98 bridges within Rappahannock’s 267 square miles. However, none of Madison’s bridges received a 9 in any category; nearly every bridge’s ratings fell between 6 and 8.

More than a third of Madison’s bridges (28) received at least one rating of 5 or lower, though only two received a 4. The lowest rated bridge in the county — on Graves Mill Road overlooking Whetstone Run — received three 5 ratings and an overall sufficiency rating of 65.7.

Madison’s highest rated bridge also falls short of Rappahannock — a bridge on Seminole Trail, which crosses over Robinson River — achieved a 99.2 sufficiency rating, which, while near-perfect, falls short of Rappahannock’s high of 99.6.

To check the ratings of bridges (and culverts) throughout Virginia, visit virginiadot.org/info/Bridge.asp and click on the “Latest bridge and large culvert conditions.”

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