Jordan Bridge construction incident in South Norfolk VA to delay opening 3 to 6 weeks REVISED UPDATED

June 27, 2012

2012-06-26: The collapse of components of an approach span under construction at the Elizabeth River in South Norfolk looked from photographs to be quite serious when we first reported this Sunday. Local TV footage showed bridge segments askew every which way up above and a major debris field of damaged and broken concrete below.

Linda Figg president of Figg Engineering said Monday morning our report had "sensationalized" the incident and contained errors. We had one angry lady! We hadn't until that point been able to get the company's version of events, beyond that given to the local media. We made some immediate corrections but agreed to withdraw the report on condition we'd get the company's full explanation of what had occurred.

A manager there said Tuesday the incident involved just one precast concrete box girder segment falling from the temporary steel erection truss level about 30ft to the ground below.

The segment that fell measured 52ft wide (the full width of the bridge deck) by 11ft deep by 12ft high at the central box section and weighed about 150,000pd, 75 short tons.

It was one of over 500 segments that, poured on the ground in a casting yard, lifted into place edge to edge on a movable erection truss, and stitched together with post-tensioned steel cabling, form some 35 spans of a mile long (5375ft) bridge. Each segment provides the full deck width and the large structural 'box' girder  section cast integrally in a casting yard nearby.

Only four of 35 spans remain to be built and the span under construction in the segment drop incident was the shortest at 129ft.

Figg Engineering stresses that no one at the job site was hurt by the segment drop - they prefer the term 'fall' - and only the one span under construction was affected. The bridge as already built to 31 spans was completely unaffected, they say.

Segments were being loaded into place on the movable trusses when the incident occurred. This placement of segments is done via a traveling 'loader' (the big yellow 4 legged machine in the Figg diagram nearby) that moves the segments with a pair of arms that go under the deck ends of the segment or using retractable cables from the end of the top deck.

As shown in the Figg drawing they also make use of a regular tracked boom crane (red) on the ground.

Can't say yet exactly how the segment drop occurred

A Figg manager said that as of Tuesday morning they can't say how the segment came to fall to the ground. He said they are still working to find out what went wrong and why.

But he said they would fully report the findings of the investigation when complete.

Before the segment drop incident they were working to open the bridge July 14. He says they now expect to open the bridge "some time in August" - so the incident is causing a delay of three to six weeks.

Building for themselves

The South Norfolk Jordan Bridge replaces a 1926 steel truss lift bridge that was first in private and later in City of Chesapeake ownership, but closed November 2008 when found structurally unsafe.

The new bridge is owned by United Bridge Partners (UBP), with American Infrastructure MLP Funds being the primary investor.  Figg Bridge Builders, LLC is the engineer, procurement and construction (EPC) firm, and Lane Construction Corporation is the primary subcontractor.

The same group (UBP) recently was accepted by the City of East Chicago, Indiana to build a new private toll bridge for Cline Avenue - another case of a bridge deteriorating to the point it was unsafe and had to be closed.


The Jordan Bridge connects Chesapeake (South Norfolk) with southern Portsmouth over the southern branch of the Elizabeth River that is 2,000ft wide in an industrial and port area. The Norfolk Naval Ship Yard employs over 10,000 people and is located immediately adjacent to the bridge.

Location is less than 2 miles south of the I-264 Downtown Tunnel and 2 miles north of the US13/460 crossing. The I-64 Beltway crossing of the Elizabeth River is about 4.7 miles to the south.

The river forms part of the Intracoastal Waterway and the old bridge was typically raised 20 to 30 times per day (10,000 lifts/year) for about 22,000 vessel passages a year (an average 60/day) seriously limiting its availability to car traffic. The allowed weight on the bridge was progressively reduced and for the last 12 years was posted at 3 tons.

So worried was the old bridge owner, the City of Chesapeake, about the bridge collapsing from an overweight vehicle, they posted an officer at each end of the bridge to reroute overweight vehicles in response to the last engineering report in summer 2008.

Not Strictly a Concession - An Agreement to Build & Toll

Under their agreement with the City, UBP has taken full responsibility for financing, building and operating the new bridge, including purchasing extra right of way. No city, state or federal funds were used for this project.  As owner and operator of the new bridge they will have full right to the tolls.

They committed to expanding the capacity of the bridge in line with demand. It is being built initially 2 lanes wide, but could be doubled with a parallel span when traffic warrants.

The bridge spans the southern branch of the Elizabeth River with a width of 2000ft. The old bridge was a mere 15ft above the water. The new private bridge has a fixed center span of 385ft, and a vertical navigational channel clearance under of 145ft. The high fixed span allows for continuous traffic over the bridge while ships pass below - a big improvement on the closures needed for the former low level lift bridge.

The new Jordan Bridge is 5375ft long overall with approach grades of less than 5%. There are 35 spans, 32 of them typically 150ft long. The central span is 385ft and spans on either side of that are 190ft.  The 52ft deck provides for two travel lanes of 12ft, two shoulders of 8ft and a pedestrian sidewalk.

Project costs are around $140 million.


The bridge has announced a table of tolls - it calls them "consumer friendly fees!" - that start at $2 for a car with an E-ZPass account. Pay-by-plate is $1 extra per transaction if the license plate is 'Registered' meaning the motorist goes to the bridge website and provides license plate number, name and address for a monthly bill. An Unregistered vehicle incurs a $2 surcharge on the base E-ZPass rate as compared to the $1 surcharge for Registered.

In 'commuting hours' (5:30-9am, 2:30 to 7pm) trucks, 3-axles and more, pay a $2 surcharge for the toll, whatever the mode of payment. This rate is designed to help maintain steady traffic flow and encourage slower heavy trucks to travel outside of commuting hours.

The bridge will compete as a toll facility with the I-264 Downtown Tunnel just to the north and with untolled crossings to the south - an interesting competitive dynamic.

see bridge website:

2008-12-29 Investors propose to build replacement bridge:

2009-01-29 Chesapeake City accepts Figg proposal:

2009-02-24 Private bridge gets Virginia state legislative OK:

Same group Figg and MLP Funds get East Chicago concession:

TOLLROADSnews 2012-06-26

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