JPA Bridge Reopens After 18 Months of Construction
It's been 18 months of construction and frustration, but the Jefferson Park Avenue Bridge has finally reopened Friday. Several business owners say they have been waiting for this day for almost two years.
Bobby Bishop has been working at the Wayside Barber Shop since he was 17 years old. When the JPA Bridge closed for construction, his world was turned upside down.
"I won't live long enough to get my money back," he said. "I took my savings and I saved for old age and put back, hoping it's going to come back."
He says the construction hurt his business so bad that he lost customers he's had for over 50 years - customers that he doesn't think he will ever get back.
"Once someone starts going somewhere else and they're satisfied, it's hard to get them back," said Bishop.
Jefferson Catlatt, who owns JPA Fastmart, says the new bridge has taken away his parking lot which may hurt sales, making his convenient store not so convenient.
"Parking's always been a problem here, so it's not, as you can see my doors still in the front so people got to walk around here to come inside, so I don't know how that's going to affect us," he said.
Laurie Craddock, who owns Atlas Coffee, says the construction is all she's ever known. She said, "We opened 10 days before the bridge shut, so we don't know if we've had slump in sales because of the bridge, it's always been this way for us."
Emergency vehicles could not access the old bridge because of the weight limit - just one safety concern inspectors had. The new bridge has been raised in order to provide a better clearance for the railroad that runs underneath.
The bridge has sidewalks, 5-foot wide bike lanes, a median, wider lanes and a turn lane. The Virginia Department of Transportation's bridge inspector Jason Settle says the bridge had lived past its days.
"The old bridge went down really easy, the concrete just broke apart very easily, so it wasn't very safe," he said. "So it definitely needed to be rebuilt."
A few weeks ago there was a ribbon-cutting in anticipation of the bridge's opening. The bridge was originally not supposed to open until Monday, but construction finished several days early. VDOT did manage to stay inside the $5.8 million budget for the bridge.