Dawn Eischen 804-524-6179


Jan. 23, 2009

Bridge will open seven months ahead of schedule

CHARLES CITY/JAMES CITY – The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will open the new Route 5 Judith Stewart Dresser Memorial Bridge over the Chickahominy River to vehicle traffic Saturday, Jan. 24—approximately seven months ahead of schedule. The structure replaces the aging 70 year old swing span bridge.Dresser Bridge on Route 5

“We’re pleased to provide drivers with a safer and more reliable structure well ahead of schedule,” said Richmond District Administrator Tom Hawthorne. “Everyone from all levels of government and contractor Skanska USA Civil Southeast Inc. recognized the significance of this project to the region and worked together to complete the bridge in record time.”

A major transportation artery connecting Charles City County to James City County, the new fixed-span bridge will carry more than 3,500 vehicles per day. It is 2,550 feet long, 56 feet wide and 52 feet high, allowing uninterrupted travel for both drivers and boaters. It features two 12-foot travel lanes and two 10-foot shoulders. The new bridge is also a critical component of the Virginia Capital Trail—a 54-mile, mixed-use path between Jamestown and Richmond that parallels Route 5. It will allow bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the Chickahominy River via a 10-foot walkway separated from vehicles by a concrete median. The walkway on the bridge is expected to open by summer 2009.

The existing bridge, built in 1939, has one travel lane in each direction, is 2,025 feet long and 24 feet wide from curb to curb. It was constructed using timber pilings and has a concrete and steel driving deck. It functions as a swing-span bridge, meaning it pivots on an axis to allow boats to pass through an opening rather than lifting upward like a drawbridge. In 2004, VDOT had to close the bridge for safety reasons on several occasions due to equipment malfunctions. As a result, motorists had to use a 63 mile detour to cross the river.

From its inception in 2005, the Route 5 bridge project has garnered attention on the local, state and national stage. In January 2006, during a routine archeological investigation of the future site for the new bridge, VDOT cultural resource consultant, Louis Berger, Inc. unearthed 11,634 historic artifacts from the 17th and 18th century. Some of the most unusual finds included a wine bottle dated circa 1675 with an owner’s mark possibly linked to Thomas Rolfe (Pocahontas’s son), decorated terra cotta pipes and copper pieces. These artifacts were documented and are currently stored with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. In addition, VDOT’s project design team received the Governor’s Award for Teamwork and the Commissioner’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in May 2007 for working together to complete project development in 18 months—a task that typically takes three or more years to complete.

For more information about the Route 5 bridge project, visit


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Page last modified: Oct. 14, 2012