East Coast Alerts

By Mel Neale

An “Insider’s” Insight into the Norfolk, VA Bridge Schedule

Whether you boat in this area or are planning to make a trip south this fall, you’ll find that dealing with the schedules of the bridges can be a real problem. If you don’t catch them right, you could end up out in the ICW in the dark. With the traffic, and in some places tricky shorelines, this isn’t a good thing.

When all the bridges in the Norfolk/Chesapeake, VA area of the AIWW went on a more restrictive weekday rush hour closure schedule in Nov. 2003 (schedule is below), we all thought that there would be absolutely no passage through for the 2 hour morning and evening periods. Now that I have returned to the area for a while, and watched the local TV, Channel 10 in particular, I realize that things are actually pretty good, at least during the mornings. The traffic report on the morning news, starting at 5 am, gives daily scheduled rush hour bridge openings for commercial vessels for the Jordan, Gilmerton, Dominion Boulevard (“Steel”), and Centerville Turnpike bridges.
Almost every day some or all of these bridges open during the restricted morning period, often for just one vessel to pass through the whole series, including the Great Bridge Bridge and lock. Since pleasure vessels are usually permitted passage with commercial vessels for special openings, if you have advance notice, it is possible to actually speed up your passage through Norfolk. The only hang up would be if the vessel (usually tug and barge) were carrying hazardous materials, then the Great Bridge Lock would not allow pleasure vessels to lock through at the same time. And we have occasionally seen tows so large that there is not space for pleasure vessels in the lock.

It is a bit more difficult to find out the times of afternoon openings, but local evening news begins at 5 p.m. (restrictions begin at 4 or 4:30). Bridge scheduled openings are sometimes given during the mid day news, 12-1 p.m. You can phone the Great Bridge Lock (757-547-3311) to request information about vessels planning to lock through during the restricted hours if the info is not available from the news broadcasts.

New Bridge Schedule for the Norfolk/Chesapeake, VA area
Mon-Fri, year round, except Federal holidays:
Mile 2.8: Jordan Bridge: Closed 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Open on signal at other times.

Mile 5.8: Gilmerton Bridge: Closed 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 3:30-5:30 p.m. Open on signal at other times.

Mile 8.8: Dominion Boulevard Bridge (aka “Steel Bridge”):: Closed 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. Open on signal at other times except: Opens each hour on the half hour from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Mile 15.2: Centerville Turnpike Bridge: Closed 6:30-8:30 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.; from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. opens on the hour and the half hour. Open on signal at all other times.

The following remain as in the past:
Mile 11.3: Great Bridge Lock: One opening in each direction per hour, coordinated with the Great Bridge Bridge openings. Call ahead (VHF Channel 13 or 757-547-3311) if you wish to lock through between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Mile 12: Great Bridge Bascule Bridge: Opens on the hour, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, year round.

We had a surprise from the Centerville Turnpike Bridge when we passed through in the spring. It is on a half hour schedule between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. We went through at 3:30 p.m. and were informed that we were lucky to make it then, as they would not open again till 6 p.m. after their rush hour closure. Even though their official schedule implies that they would open at 4 p.m., they do not, except for commercial vessels, of course.

Considering the possible closure of the Dismal Swamp Canal due to lack of funding, another useful phone number to have in this area is the USACE Norfolk, 757-441-7500. Follow the prompts for Dismal Swamp Canal information.

Copyright 2004-2005 Tom Neale