My work on the Coleman Bridge project
Dear Friend -
Like you, I believe improving transportation is critical to the continued economic growth of our region. I want to update you on one transportation project I am working on related to the Coleman Bridge.
The Coleman Bridge connects Gloucester Point on the Middle Peninsula to Yorktown. And drivers pay a toll to cross the bridge, which funds bridge maintenance.
But the bridge - and specifically the double swing span - also plays a critical national security role as U.S. Navy ships come and go between Naval installations around the area and the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station upriver.
I included a provision in the annual defense authorization to review the military value of the bridge's swing span and to determine whether the Department of Defense (DoD) should aid in funding bridge management and upkeep. I am hopeful the language in the bill starts the ball rolling towards a cost sharing agreement between Gloucester County and the DoD.
You can read more about my work on the Coleman Bridge issue below.
July 12, 2017
Wittman looks to feds to bear some cost of Coleman Bridge
Local leaders have been working with Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Montross) to alleviate the burden Middle Peninsula residents have borne in tolls for maintaining the span of the George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge.
This week, language is before the U.S. House of Representatives that, if approved, would set into motion the possibility of lessening the tolls on the bridge down the road.
The language comes as part of a National Defense Authorization Bill, authored by Wittman, which specifies the budget and expenditures of the United States Department of Defense. In it, Wittman encourages the U.S. Secretary of Defense to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services, no later than March 1, 2018, to assess the military value of the Coleman Bridge.
Wittman said daily bridge commuters can pay upwards of $500 a year in tolls, some of which go to operate the bridge's double swing span.
The idea, according to Wittman, is to direct the DOD to assume some or all financial responsibility for the maintenance of the bridge, as U.S. Navy ships have used the span for decades in their transit to and from the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown.
Wittman, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairs the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, noted in the language that the Coleman is "critical to the efficient transport of cargo to and from Naval Weapons Station Yorktown. The bridge's unique double swing design allows transport vessels bound for military installations upstream to reach their destinations without delay."
The language in the bill goes on to state, "The committee wishes to better understand the benefit the Department is deriving from commuter tolls and whether commuters are bearing an unfair burden."
The briefing, Wittman continued, should go beyond just assessing the military value of the span, and should also include details on the utilization rate of the span by the DOD and other non-DOD upriver traffic. He said it should also address the Defense Department's discussions with local and state stakeholders who have a fiduciary responsibility for construction and management of the bridge; summarize any DOD authorities and opportunities to help mitigate costs, and provide the DOD's views on whether such mitigations are appropriate.
Wittman said he has been working with county staff and the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors for quite some time setting into motion an avenue that could bring some relief to residents paying the tolls. "Through our efforts, Congressman Rob Wittman is supporting language asking the Navy to look at the Coleman Bridge to potentially reduce costs," said Phillip Bazzani, chair of the county's board of supervisors. "This is a precedent!"
Bazzani said he has been leading the effort with Gloucester County Administrator Brent Fedors and Wittman to encourage the Navy to pay for the operation and maintenance of the span and spearheaded the discussion, which got the matter to this point.