By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Jan. 2, 2018 | 7:20 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – Holding true to their word in November, officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation said work to install a backup generator on the Benjamin Harrison bridge has been completed following a power failure that left the span in the dark in November.
That update came from VDOT representative Crystal Smith during the board’s December meeting, where she advised county leaders that the agency has successfully installed auxiliary backup generators on the bridge, less than a month after a brief power outage shut down the bridge, including its communication equipment with the United States Coast Guard.
In November, a power failure on an electrical feed coming from Prince George Electric Cooperative resulted in the bridge losing all power. The outage was brief, according to Smith but, the situation was exacerbated by the fact that the bridge’s backup generators didn’t activate as needed.
“Our concern is, even 15 minutes can be critical to the operations of the Coast Guard and that is our first priority,” Smith said in an interview following the November meeting.
According to a news release from VDOT, traffic on the bridge was directed by flaggers from Nov. 28 through Nov. 30 as crews completed work on the backup generators.
In November, Smith said VDOT is working with Prince George Electric Cooperative to “get on their Priority One list” in addition to having the backup generators installed and active at the bridge that crosses the James River and links Prince George to Charles City County.
Even though the backup generators are in place, Smith told supervisors in November if something were to happen where power was out on the bridge for an extended period of time and the generators were not working, such as during the brief outage that month, the agency would be required to leave the bridge in an up, or open position until the matter is fixed, requiring drivers to take a detour.
That detour would likely see local drivers being encouraged to use Jordan Point Road (Route 106/156) south to Route 10 west. Take Interstate 295 north to Route 5 (Exit 22A) back to Jordan Point Road (Route 106/156).
Through travelers are typically directed to use Interstates 295 and 64 or the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry as alternate routes to the Hampton Roads area.
At that time, she said a situation like that would be a “worst-case scenario” and she “didn’t think Prince George Electric Cooperative would allow the power to be out that long” that a lengthy detour would be required.
For the latest traffic information, including information on the status of the Benjamin Harrison bridge, follow the Commonwealth’s traffic information and road conditions platform for the latest information on the bridge by calling 511 or visiting http://511virginia.org.