Crews Invention Saves VDOT Money 

Last spring, VDOT engineers met to discuss how best to do the project. After discarding ideas involving barges and cranes, they decided to bring in heavy machinery to strip and repaint the 5,800 feet of railing. The bridge would have to be shut every weekend for seven months, beginning in April, and the whole job, they estimated, would cost $400,000.

VDOT work-crew superintendent Joe Echols doubted drivers would stand for seven months of closures, he says. "Man, somebody would skin us. I said, 'Boss, that's no good at all. … I'm sure we can do better than that.'"

Echols, a 28-year employee of VDOT, and his team invented a nursery cart that workers could trundle along the sidewalk on the bridge. It carried plastic sheeting hung on a PVC pipe frame to catch the paint flakes, a generator and two vacuum cleaners with special filters to dispose of the chips safely.

The jury-rigged contraption was scrutinized by traffic engineers, environmental engineers and safety engineers. All pronounced it good. Still, Echols admits, he wondered, "Suppose I blow this, you know?"

The cart worked fine. Echols hoped the stripping and repainting, all done by hand, would be completed by Halloween, but weeks of rain delayed the date to mid-December.

On Nov. 8, when Echols had just finished hunting with his buddy, a bridge worker called to report the job was done. The crew had worked overtime to complete the painting before the marathon that weekend, because "we thought ESPN might be there," they said, and wanted the site to look its best. The whole effort had cost $80,000.

Will this set a precedent for how VDOT plans its projects? Spokesman Jeff Caldwell says the agency always tries to find the most economical way of doing things. So no, Echols' crew won't become special budget consultants. But the cart idea may be reused. And they're proud of the job.

Crew members now wear "HBX" stickers on their hats, like the "OBX" (Outer Banks) stickers on cars. When Echols asked, "What's that?" they told him, "Aww, that's Huguenot Bridge Experience."

— M.S.S.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

  • Rehabbing Big Brown

    Rehabbing Big Brown

    Our architecture critic looks at why to rehab the existing Richmond Coliseum and make it a centerpiece for redevelopment.
    • Jan 12, 2021
  • Cajun Adventures

    Cajun Adventures

    Former Richmonder Ann Savoy publishes her second major work about Cajun, Creole and zydeco music.
    • Jan 12, 2021
  • Richmonder of the Year

    Richmonder of the Year

    After a global pandemic stopped everything, Dr. Danny TK Avula was the right person at the right time.
    • Dec 29, 2020
  • Photos of the Year 2020

    Photos of the Year 2020

    Style Weekly photojournalist Scott Elmquist chooses some of his favorite images from a busy year.
    • Dec 22, 2020
  • More »

Copyright © 2021 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation