NORFOLK, Va. – A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project aimed at replacing North Landing Bridge took a crucial step forward this week.Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of engineers and USACE commanding general, signed a Chief’s Report on Tuesday, recommending the North Landing Bridge Replacement Study’s findings for authorization by Congress. This also initiates start of the Preconstruction Engineering and Design phase, or PED, which covers project design and typically lasts up to three years.“Authorization is a very important step toward project construction,” said Col. Patrick Kinsman, Norfolk District commander. “This is a tremendous achievement for USACE and our local partners. More importantly, our collective team has worked diligently on this critical project for the community. We are dedicated to the construction of a new bridge as local traffic over this crossing has continued to grow in recent years.“North Landing Bridge not only services vehicle traffic on Route 165 between the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, it’s also a key navigation corridor for maritime interests on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. The cargo-transportation industry relies heavily on the AIWW as a freight-transportation system, which improves commerce flow into the area and helps our economy.”Tuesday’s signing culminates a three-year study that reviewed the existing bridge’s operation and maintenance, examined alternatives and targeted a feasible plan for replacement of the aging bridge.Built in 1951 to serve rural traffic, North Landing Bridge is a federally owned and operated two-lane, double-swing drawbridge crossing the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. It’s considered structurally deficient and functionally obsolete, carrying far more than its 8,000-vehicle-per-day design capacity.USACE’s recommended replacement plan features a high-rise, two-lane fixed bridge measuring 3,360 feet long and 46 feet 4 inches wide – with a minimum vertical clearance of nearly 70 feet, structure depth of 8 feet and roadway elevation of 78 feet. It would be built just east of the current bridge.“The North Landing Bridge replacement is a great project for our local citizens here in Hampton Roads,” said Susan Layton, Norfolk District’s Planning and Policy Branch chief. “The new proposed high-rise bridge will solve the existing problem with repeated traffic delays throughout the day as the bridge opens. It will allow safer and more efficient travel by both vehicles and vessels.”The project, estimated at $98.5 million, includes upgrades to meet current Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Department of Transportation design guidelines.USACE would cover all first costs of construction, according to the Chief’s Report. The city of Chesapeake, its nonfederal sponsor, will assume ownership and responsibility for operation and maintenance of the bridge after completion, projected at $185,000 per year.Layton said the primary objectives are to reduce vehicle and vessel delays, improve roadway and navigation safety, and lessen USACE’s infrastructure inventory by turning the new bridge over to Chesapeake for long-term management and upkeep.“The bridge will provide a large decrease in traffic delays, including elimination of the issue of the bridge being shut down due to high-water events and vessel incidents,” she said. “It will also have wide shoulders, allowing for safe pedestrian and bicycle passage over the waterway. There is currently a load limit on the bridge, so heavy vehicles will no longer have to travel a longer route to cross the waterway.“These benefits to the local community will be immediate once the bridge is constructed.”The Chief’s Report will undergo further review by the assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works and Office of Management and Budget before formal submittal to Congress, Layton said. After authorization, it would be eligible for construction appropriations.“This entire process can take five to 10 years or more,” she added, “so it is difficult to say when a new bridge would be constructed.”Chesapeake officials said the Chief’s Report signing is a significant move toward enduring solutions for area residents, motorists and boaters.“As nonfederal sponsor for the replacement of North Landing Bridge, the city of Chesapeake is pleased to see the Chief of Engineers Report completed,” said Chesapeake Mayor Rick West. “We know there is still much work ahead in designing and funding a replacement bridge to connect the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, but applaud USACE’s efforts in getting this important milestone completed. We look forward to working with our federal partners to bring this project to fruition.”The recommended plan – which considered public comments, along with input from other federal, state and local agencies – is “technically sound, environmentally and socially acceptable, and economically justified,” the report states.“The Corps appreciates the opportunity to partner with the city of Chesapeake to provide this improvement to our local citizens and looks forward to continuing to move this project forward to authorization, appropriations and eventual construction,” she said.To learn more about the project, visit www.nao.usace.army.mil/NorthLandingBridge/.