Local citizens gathered Thursday along with local and state officials to mark the official opening of the Robertson Bridge, which Mayor Sherman Saunders hailed as an example of continued progress in the city.
The city of Danville and the Virginia Department of Transportation held the ceremonial opening at 10 a.m. Thursday adjacent the bridge in the parking lot of Danville Stadium Cinemas on Riverside Drive.
“We thank you for coming out today to celebrate progress in this city,” Saunders said. “You see the evidence throughout the city. We are doing great things.”
Mark Peake, Lynchburg District representative to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, said the new five-lane bridge, with a divided median and separate pedestrian/bicycle lane, offers a major improvement over the two-lane bridge it replaced. The old bridge carried about 20,000 vehicles a day, which often caused traffic to back up during morning and evening rush hours.
“It will improve traffic flow and reduce congestion,” Peake said of the new bridge. “Danville is a major economic center for south central Virginia, and this project will help it continue to serve in that capacity.”
The bridge is approximately 940 feet long and 84.5 feet wide, and it provides three southbound lanes – two of which will turn left onto Memorial Drive and one that will turn right – and two northbound lanes flanked by a pedestrian/bicycle lane.
Baxter Gordon, marketing and project manager for English Construction, said the bridge is the fifth one the company has built over the Dan River.
“I suppose every job has its benefits,” Gordon said. “One of the true benefits is at the end of a project we sit back and enjoy it. This bridge makes this area safer and easier to travel.”
All bridge lanes are now open for use. The only major work left to be completed is the paving of the southbound lanes of the reconfigured intersection of the bridge and Memorial Drive. That work will be finished next week, weather permitting.
Landscaping is planned for the fall.
The old bridge was built in 1940. It was named after George Wilmot Robertson, who was one of the first skilled weavers to be hired by R. Addison Schoolfield for his textile mill. In 1905, Robertson became mill superintendent. He retired in 1941 as executive vice president and superintendent. Robertson also was active in the community and was instrumental in organizing Danville Rotary Club. In recognition of his achievements, Robertson was honored by the General Assembly with the naming of the bridge.
Construction on the bridge project began in June 2010.