CHESAPEAKE - If you use the Gilmerton Bridge, you'll need to find another route for the next two weeks.
As of 5:00 a.m. on January 7, the span on Route 13 (Military Highway), west of Bainbridge Boulevard, closed to vehicles so crews could deliver and then begin installing the 240 foot new bridge lift span.
Alternate routes are the I-64 High Rise Bridge and the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, which is a toll span. Officials there said that Monday will be a special Free Travel Day. There also will be a $1 discount during the two-week closure, bridge officials noted.
During part of the time, boating traffic will be impacted for up to 10 days and the Coast Guard will enforce the closure at the Intracoastal Waterway mile 5.8 between January 7 through 16.
This marks the beginning of Phase II of the Gilmerton Bridge Replacement Project. The project includes a new lift span bridge and creating a new four-lane bridge, replacing the one that was built in 1938. Construction began on November 1, 2009 and the span should be complete in January 2014.
Phase III of the project is expected to begin in Fall 2013. That's when the existing bridge will be demolished and north side approaches and a new fender system will be built.
Va. Dept. of Transportation officials say the new bridge will be 1,908 feet long with a vertical clearance of 35 feet in the closed position, so there will be fewer bridge lifts needed. It will rise up to 135 feet when open.
The new bridge width, of 85 feet, will accommodate future widening of Military Highway, from four lanes to six.
Some busines owners in the area worry the closure will keep customers away.
"We are really going to suffer," said Bernie Posey from Milly's Cue and Chew Lounge. "We canceled karaoke nights because we won't have any customers."
Other business owners, like Roger Williams at Bill's Radiator Service, say the timing of the closure isn't bad at all.
"To me this is best case scenario because business slows down in this area at this time of the year, every year."