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Support the Replacement of Morgan Ford Low Water Bridge

This petition had 1,247 supporters

Over the last ten years Warren County has worked tirelessly on the replacement of the severely deficient Morgan Ford Low Water Bridge.  The bridge, which spans across the Shenandoah River in the north end of Warren County, was constructed in 1925 and has ably served the community for 88 years.  The concrete structure is one lane wide with no side railings to prevent motorists from driving off the roadway and into the Shenandoah River.  The Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) bridge inspectors have rated the structure as having an overall condition of “poor” due to severe scale and deterioration throughout the concrete slab, spalling to the upstream deck edge exposing rebar, spalling and honeycomb on the underside of the concrete slab exposing the bottom mat of steel, severe scale exposing aggregate scattered throughout the pier walls and footings, and other associated structural deficiencies.  Due to the existing conditions, VDOT has given the structure a sufficiency rating of 2.0 out of a possible 100 which ranks it as one of the three lowest rated bridge structures in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia. 



Safety:  Morgan Ford Low Water Bridge is a safety risk for any motorist that travels across it.  The derelict structure is only one lane wide with no side railings to prevent motorists from driving off the roadway and into the Shenandoah River.  During the evening and nighttime hours and during flooding events where the bridge is just beginning to be submerged by water from the river, this become a matter of life and death.  The bridge has seen a number of recent fatalities including 21-year-old Jessica Lynn Barr on March 30, 2010 and 18-year-old Coty James Ferguson and 17-year-old Robert Allen Jefferies, Jr. on August 3, 2013.  Tragedies such as these CAN BE AVOIDED!  The senseless loss of life can be stopped by the upgrading and replacement of the bridge and its approaches.

Response Time for Fire and Rescue and Law Enforcement Personnel:  The bridge is a critical transportation link that allows Warren County’s Department of Fire and Rescue Services’ Company #10 (North Warren), Company #5 (Shenandoah Shores), and Company #6 (Shenandoah Farms) to provide adequate emergency service coverage in the Rockland and Shenandoah Farms areas.  The Shenandoah River frequently floods over the Morgan Ford Bridge and forces its closure six to eight weeks per year.  During these closures, Fire and Rescue personnel are forced to take a long and costly detour route hampering them from providing the most efficient response time and risking loss of life due to delays in getting to the caller.  These same issues affect the response time for the Warren County Sheriff’s Office as well.  In October 2013, a VDOT traffic study conducted at the request of the Board of Supervisors found inconsistencies with the safety of through trucks on Morgan Ford Road between Howellsville and Fairground roads.  It was determined that the condition of the bridge was so poor that the maximum weight limit was reduced from 10 tons to 5 tons.  This reduction in weight resulted in no fire and rescue apparatus being able to utilize the bridge, even in the case of an emergency.  Personnel now have to utilize the much longer route over the Shenandoah Avenue bridges to reach calls in the north end of the County.

Response Time for Virginia Department of Transportation:  The current bridge limitations limit VDOT's abilities during normal and emergency snow removal operations.  Large equipment cannot be move back and forth efficiently in this area, driving up costs and increasing response times.

Transportation:  Morgan Ford Low Water Bridge is an important crossing and a vital part of our transportation network.  Residents of the Shenandoah Farms and Blue Mountain areas use this connection to access the shopping opportunities in the Cedarville area, as well as to commute to work in the Route 340/522 corridor, Stephens City, and Winchester areas. 

More Efficient Bus Routes for Local Schools:  The new bridge will also provide opportunities to utilize more efficient school bus routes in the area by allowing buses to cross the bridge.  Under the current weight restrictions, school buses are not prohibited to cross the structure.



The Virginia Department of Transportation has worked extensively with Warren County, area residents, stakeholders, and a variety of state and federal agencies to address and mitigate legitimate concerns related to the location and design of the replacement bridge.  Project information includes:

Design Elements:

  • Design Speed: 25 mph
  • Utilizes 3R Design Criteria
  • Flooding: The proposed higher bridge is expected to reduce the number of overtopping flood events in any given year by approximately two-thirds; however, it will not be high enough to pass a two-year design flood event.
  • Bridge/Roadway Width: Travel way of 22’ (One lane each direction)
  • Project length: 0.38 miles
  • Bridge Length: 480’ using six 80’ spans
  • Bridge Height:
  1. 6’ clearance from ordinary high water for unobstructed boating access
  2. Driving surface 8’ above current driving surface
  • Bridge Rail: 32” crash-rated bridge railing system.
  • Retaining Walls: On north side of river due to Virginia Outdoor Foundation easement.
  • Boat Launch: Access is maintained through a VDOT maintenance access drive.
  • Aesthetics as agreed to in the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA):
  1. Bridge rail with wood-grained top-rail and timber guardrail.
  2. Landscaping within VDOT right-of-way with a preference to native vegetation.
  3. Texture the southern approach pavement to establish a gateway to the Rockland Rural Historic District.

Latest Developments:

  • MOA signed by required signatories on October 1, 2014.
  • The environmental process requires a full Section 4(f) document which has a 65-day review/comment period.
  • VDOT will to hold a Public Hearing on February 4, 2015.



  • 1st Citizen Information Meeting:  February 2011
  • 2 meetings with property owners: Last met July 2012
  • 2nd Citizen Information Meeting:  November 14, 2012
  • Consulting Parties Meeting:  December 12, 2012

Upcoming (tentative)

  • Environmental Documents submitted for review: Late October 2014
  • Approved Environmental Documents: Mid-January 2015
  • Public Hearing: February 4, 2015
  • Design Approval: February 2015
  • Begin Right of Way Acquisition:  April 2015
  • Advertisement for Construction:  April 2016


  • $1.2 million Preliminary Engineering
  • $0.7 million Right of Way
  • $7.9 million Construction
  • $9.8 million Total



A wealth of inaccurate information has been disseminated to the public regarding this project and we encourage everyone to research the facts and learn the truth.  Learn about the needless tragedies that have occurred due to current condition of the bridge and consider the future tragedies that will occur if the bridge is not replaced.  This project has been one of Warren County’s top transportation priorities for the past decade, is included in the County’s adopted Secondary Six-Year Plan and 2013 Comprehensive Plan, and is FULLY FUNDED.

Please sign this petition respectfully requesting that the Virginia Department of Transportation move forward with plans to replace this deficient bridge with one that will serve our needs for the next century and come to the VDOT’s upcoming Design Public Hearing to voice your support.  The meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the North Warren Fire Department, 89 Rockland Road, Front Royal, Virginia 22630.


For more information about this project, please view the following resources:

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