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Replace The Mayo Bridge? Why That’s a Recipe for Disaster

City of Richmond officials announced last week that they are abruptly changing course and now plan to tear down the historic Mayo Bridge. Rather than repair Richmond’s oldest bridge, the new plan is to replace the Mayo Bridge. This new plan also calls for the Mayo bridge to be closed for at least 2 years!

This poorly thought out plan is sadly what south of the river residents and businesses have come to expect from the City of Richmond Administration for nearly 110 years now. Everything seems to be slighted in Manchester with benign neglect and little to no thought or consideration for those who live, work, and play here. The recent resurgence in the area has happened despite, not because of the City of Richmond Administrators over the years.

But the destruction and closing of the Mayo Bridge for years is taking that indifference to a whole new level with severe negative consequences for Manchester. Here’s why this will be very bad news for the area if the city sticks with its new plan:

  •  Goodbye Small Businesses: Small business owners in Manchester will be even more cut off from north of the river Richmond residents than they are already. People will be confused about how to get to Manchester as their muscle memory is accustomed to using the Mayo Bridge/Hull Street thoroughfare. But the plan calls for the bridge to be closed for at least two years. And if history is any guide with construction delays, double that timeframe and make it four years. That will be a disaster for already struggling Manchester businesses. This is especially true as many of the newly opened businesses generate large portions of their sales (if not the vast majority in many instances) from customers who live outside Manchester. That’s going to be a killer for Manchester’s small businesses.
  • Goodbye History: Richmond’s oldest and historically significant Mayo Bridge would be lost to the wrecking ball. The Mayo Bridge was constructed in 1911 and was modeled off the Pont Neuf bridge over the River Seine in Paris, France. What a shame it would be to lose such a beautiful piece of architecture, which has suffered from tremendous mistreatment and benign neglect by the city. But like all important old structures, it could be saved and restored to its former glory for a fraction of the cost of building a new bridge.
  • Goodbye Grocery Store: By closing the Mayo Bridge for years, you might as well kiss any near term hope for a Manchester grocery store goodbye. Grocery store operators look for two things when deciding to open a store: density and the incomes of neighboring residents. Manchester is gaining density, which certainly helps the case. But south Richmond’s average incomes are some of the lowest in the entire Greater Richmond area (and the entire state). If you lop off access for residents on the northeast side of the river including Church Hill and eastern downtown by closing the Mayo Bridge for years, that is only going to make the situation worse. No grocery store operator is going to step into that situation where they are all but guaranteed to lose money for years while Manchester is partially cut off from the northern part of the city and waiting to be reconnected.

Repair Don’t Replace

The bridge could be repaired for $20 Million rather than replaced for $70 Million as reported by the City Administration. Similar to construction delays, you might as well double that new construction cost figure for a cool $140 Million to build. Frankly, even $140 Million sounds low given currently ridiculously high construction costs seen these days. Simply stated, building new is a poor financial decision.

Traffic Calm & Divert Trucks to the Manchester Bridge

The city has done its best to neglect and treat the Mayo bridge badly. It’s a teacup not a big gulp as we already pointed out years ago in our “Fix the Mayo Bridge! article, yet dump trucks and tractor trailers are still allowed to traverse it.

 One lane of the existing bridge should be converted to a pedestrian/bike line. As was originally the case the bridge should again have light rail, but this time dedicate a lane for it. That would reduce the Mayo Bridge to one lane for cars in both directions, north and south. That traffic calming would go a long way to reducing the road rage induced Mad Max at the Thunderdome drivers who regularly cross the bridge going 50+ miles an hour undulating and swerving amongst lanes to avoid vehicles that are observing the speed limit.

Complete the Loop

As we recommended 5 years ago, by creating a pedestrian/biking lane on the Mayo Bridge, it would complete a walking loop if connected with signage and way finding with the T-Pot Bridge. Today people cross the T-Pot Bridge only to say “now what” as they disappointedly turn around and retread the same bridge they just walked across. By completing the loop, you give hikers and bikers what they want. Spurs and offshoots can also be created on the Manchester side of the loop to help support Manchester businesses and the re-emerging Hull Street business corridor.

The Richmond Administration should reconsider this terrible, and poorly thought out plan. If it doesn’t, the momentum in Manchester will be hamstrung for years to come.

2 thoughts on “Replace The Mayo Bridge? Why That’s a Recipe for Disaster

  1. I’ve sent a note to my city council member about this, asking her to see what can be done about repairing the bridge rather than replacing it. Hopefully my request won’t fall on deaf ears.

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