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Under Construction

Gilmerton Bridge Replacement Project


Project Photos

Project at a Glance

Begin Date
November 2009

Est Completion Date
Winter 2015

EST $134 million


Robert A. 'Bud' Morgan, PE, Construction Manager

About the Project

The Gilmerton Bridge Replacement project on Military Highway in the city of Chesapeake will provide a new lift span bridge over the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River and replace the existing double-leaf bascule bridge that was constructed in 1938. 

The new bridge, 1,908 feet long with a vertical clearance of 35 feet in the closed position and up to 135 feet when the lift span is opened,  will be constructed in phases on the existing Military Highway alignment.  The new bridge width, of 85 feet, will accommodate future widening of Military Highway, from four lanes to six.

November 1, 2009 Start construction
January 2013 – Float-in of lift span and attachment of span to bridge towers
Winter 2015 – Anticipated completion date

Gilmerton Bridge Replacement Project Fact Sheet


Project Updates

To receive information about this project, please send an e-mail to with the subject line: SUBSCRIBE. 

Photos: Set 1 |  Set 2  |  Set 3

Tower Construction Photos: 
Aug 2012 | Jul 2012 | May 2012 | Apr 2012 | Mar 2012 | Jan 2012 
Dec 2011 | Nov 2011 | Oct 2011 | Sept 2011 | May 2011 | Apr 2011

Lift Span Construction Photos: 
Aug 2012 | Jul 2012 | Mar 2012 | Dec 2011 | Aug 2011 | May 2011 

Drilled Shaft  Photos: 
Can and Drill Rig | Oscillator Can | 12 ft. Shaft Rebar Cage | 12 ft. Drilled Shaft & Oscillator 


Construction Schedule

The Gilmerton Bridge is closed weeknights, Sunday through Thursday, from 8 p.m. until 5 accommodate construction activities.

Gilmerton Bridge Float-In Slideshow and Overview


Time Lapse Video of Float-In January 7, 2013

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Gilmerton Bridge lift span on the move

Gilmerton Bridge Project Details

Project Benefits

  • Reduced motorist congestion at Gilmerton Bridge and alternate routes
  • Increased clearance to accommodate marine and motorist traffic with fewer bridge openings
  • Increased lane width to improve traffic flow and accommodate future widening of Military Highway



Project Highlights

  • First-in-the-industry joint project risk management plan
  • Among the largest drilled shafts (12 ft.) ever constructed using the oscillator method
  • BIM Modeling – 4D program for structural steel detailing and erection
  • Project-dedicated public information officer




  • Limited access between railroad and existing bridge
  • Limited construction vibration
  • Restricted channel closures for maritime traffic
  • Coordination with Norfolk Southern Railroad
  • Tower erection over existing roadway
  • Building new bridge over and under existing bridge
  • Maximum 14-day closure allowance to float-in and set new lift span
  • Tower jacking for possible foundation settlement
  • Demolition of existing bridge under the newly constructed bridge


New Vertical-Lift Span Bridge

Four-lane, vertical-lift bridge: Composed of a single span which rises vertically, remaining parallel with the bridge deck, to accommodate maritime traffic and then descends to close.

Located on Military Highway, west of Bainbridge Boulevard

Crosses the Southern branch of the Elizabeth River

Lift Span Length: 250 ft.

Open Position:  135 ft.

Close Position: 35 ft.

Bridge width: 85 ft. wide.

Vertical lift towers: 207 ft. tall each; include 1,009 steel members, each 
ranging from 5,000 pounds to 150,000 lbs.


Construction Facts

Eight 12-ft.-diameter drilled shafts, among the largest in diameter ever constructed in the U.S. using the oscillator method with temporary casing

Total length of drill shafts: 124 ft.

10 million pounds of structural steel

3.1 million pounds of reinforcing steel

30,000 cubic yards of concrete

7,000 cubic yards of structural fill

4,500 linear feet of drainage pipe

Four 15-ft.-high retaining walls

Eight 15-ft.-diameter sheaves

200 different assembly lots of bolts


Project Timeline

Phase I: Commencement of project:  November 2009

Shift of existing four-lane traffic to two-lane traffic
Installion of 12-foot drill shafts
Construction of two southbound lanes, approach spans, lift span and towers
Installation of mechanical and electrical lift system

Phase II:  January 2013

Float-in of bridge lift span
Connection of span to towers
Shift of traffic to new bridge, southside lanes

Phase III:  Fall 2013

Demolition of existing bridge
Construction of north-side approaches
Construction of bridge protection system
Opening of all travel lanes

Estimated Final Completion: Winter 2015


Rush Hour Restrictions:
    During all phases of construction, attention has been given to minimizing impacts to the motoring public, including during peak travel periods such as morning and afternoon rush hours.

In the News

Modern Steel, January 2013

"Widening the Gap"


ASCE Civil Engineering Magazine, December 2013

"Bascule Bridge Constructed Over Existing Crossing"


Construction Management Team

Virginia Department of Transportation
James S. Utterback, P.M.P., District Administrator
Mark Cacamis, P.E., State Construction Engineer
Bud Morgan, P.E., Area Construction Engineer
Ashton Lawler, P,E., State Structures and Bridge Division
Mitch Layton, Construction Manager


Construction, Engineering & Inspection

Parsons Brinckerhoff (Lead)

Hardesty and Hanover

McDonough Bolyard Peck, Inc.


Seventh Point Transportation PR


Engineer of Record

Modjeski and Masters – Moveable Bridge

Gannett Fleming – Approach Bridges


General Contractor

PCL Civil Construction, Inc.


Major Subcontractors

EV Williams Inc.

McLean Contracting

DT Read

Edwards Electric

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Why is VDOT replacing the Gilmerton Bridge?
A: The original Gilmerton Bridge was constructed in 1938 as a twin bascule span, four-lane bridge. In service for more than 70 years, this bridge system had reached its life expectancy. 

The new 1,908-foot Gilmerton Bridge has a vertical clearance of 35 feet in the closed position, compared to the existing 11-foot clearance. The project is being constructed on the existing Military Highway alignment and will provide a bridge width of 85 feet to accommodate future widening of Military Highway from four lanes to six lanes. The new bridge has been designed to ease traffic congestion for the 35,000 vehicles that use the bridge daily as well as provide taller clearance for enhanced maritime access, thereby leading to fewer annual bridge lifts. 

Q: Why is this project important to our region and the city of Chesapeake?
A: The Gilmerton Bridge is a vital transportation route for more than 35,000 motorists per day. The new Gilmerton Bridge will support the future widening of Military Highway and has many features to ease traffic congestion and maritime movement in Hampton Roads for many years to come.

Q.  How long will the bridge be closed?
A.  The bridge will continue to close weeknights, Sunday through Thursday, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. nightly while project crews construct the bridge protection system. The overnight bridge closures are expected to remain in effect through the project’s expected completion date of Winter 2015. 

Q.  Is there a detour or alternate route?
During overnight bridge closures, motorists are encouraged to use the I-64 High Rise Bridge as the preferred alternative route. The South Norfolk Jordan Bridge can also be used as a tolled alternative route.

Q: What have been the key features of construction and key milestone dates?
A: The bridge replacement project has been constructed in three phases. The first phase consisted of the construction of the two southbound lanes, approach spans, lift span and bridge towers, and the installation of the mechanical and electrical lift system.  During Phase Two, the 5.2-million-pound bridge lift span, which was built at an off-site location in Norfolk, Va., journeyed seven nautical miles through the Elizabeth River to a position in the channel where final installation and vertical alignment to the bridge towers occurred. The float-in operation was originally scheduled to take a full two weeks, but project crews were able to complete this phase of the project in half of the allotted time. During Phase Three, project crews have constructed the northside approaches and are currently building the bridge protection system and demolishing the bascule piers of the old Gilmerton Bridge. 

Q: When will the project be completed?
The project is expected to be completed in Winter 2015.

Q: What does the new bridge look like?
The new Gilmerton Bridge is a vertical lift span bridge which ascends to accommodate maritime traffic, and then descends to close. The former Gilmerton Bridge was a twin bascule bridge system which consisted of two spans, or leaves, which met in the middle and swung up horizontally over the channel to open. 

Q: Why does the bridge take so long to build?
The construction of the Gilmerton Bridge is a highly complex operation due to a variety of challenges, one of which has involved building the new bridge under and over the former bridge while remaining open to vehicular traffic.  Although the construction of a bridge of this magnitude takes time, the project team has carefully coordinated much of the schedule during overnight hours in order to have significantly less impact on the motoring public.  

Q: I would like to have a Gilmerton Bridge presentation at my business, association or civic organization meeting. How can I schedule this?
Please contact the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Office of Communications to schedule a presentation at 757-322-0616 or via email to Lynn Polizos, VDOT PIO/Gilmerton Bridge. 


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Page last modified: Aug. 15, 2014