No Firetrucks on Proffit Bridge

The new Proffit Rd. bridge isn’t strong enough to bear the weight of firetrucks, Jeremy Borden wrote in yesterday’s Progress, and the Stony Point Fire Department isn’t particularly happy about it.

Stony Point’s two trucks weigh 15.5 and 16.5 tons, while the bridge can bear just 12 tons of weight. Stony Point is not the primary responder to that area — Charlottesville and Earlysville can get there as quickly as Stony Point — but a three-alarm fire may well require Stony Point to show up. Thing is, the old bridge was only rated at 15 tons (15 < 15.5), and that was dropped to 12 tons a year and a half ago. Jeremy Borden was kind enough to provide some more detail via e-mail. It seems that the Stony Point Fire Department, back when it was being run by arsonists, figured that the bridge would hold twice the posted limit, so they just went ahead and drove over it. When the adults took over in 2002 they brought a stop to that and began seeking an official blessing to use the bridge.

So, nothing has changed, but this does seem like a good example of what can happen when development patterns don’t respect the realities of existing infrastructure and resources. The county shouldn’t provide building permits to structures on the west side of that bridge that could have fires so severe that they’d require a prompt response from Stony Point. But that’s just common sense. Isn’t it?

12 thoughts on “No Firetrucks on Proffit Bridge”

  1. So, I’m no longer in Stony Point – I was just off Watt’s Passage – one of the ‘east-west’ arteries – but I do miss it! Here’s my concern: Stony Point itself is nearly due east of Proffit and Hollymead – it’s actually a tad south of Forest Lakes – and yet it remains pretty rural. That’s a direct result of the fact that it’s isolated by the lack of east-west links to connect the 29N corridor to the 20N corridor (and similarly the lack of connections across the mountains to the 231N corridor).

    I say good for the county on this bridge limitation. Although I’m not an anti-roader, the infrastructure limitations do keep the runaway growth in check – I do not miss the commute on 20N – and the growth and infrastructure building should be targeted to specific growth areas.

    FWIW, I lived on Burnt Mill – the old, old, east-west connector that went through a ford (Mossing’s Ford?) from Stony Point to Proffit, and ultimately onto Rio Mills.

  2. The bridge should have been built big enough to support a fire truck. It is possible that an emergency west of the railroad tracks could require a prompt response from Seminole Trail, Earlysville and Stony Point or that multiple emergencies could occur on either side of the tracks as well as other scenarios that would necessitate the use of that bridge by a fire truck. Lives and property are more important than trying to manipulate development patterns by shortchanging emergency services and necessary infrastructure. Common sense would dictate that new infrastructure be built to accomodate current and future needs.

  3. This bridge is odd — neither fish nor fowl — because it’s owned and operated by CSX, rather than VDOT. I don’t know what obligations that CSX has. For all I know, they’re doing us all a big favor by providing us with a bridge at all. On the other hand, maybe they’re obliged to construct whatever VDOT tells them to construct. I have no idea.

  4. They should go back and put in a two lane bridge that can handle the fire trucks.

    It sounds like the NIMBYs want the development to stay on the other side of the bridge though.

  5. It sounds like the NIMBYs want the development to stay on the other side of the bridge though.

    When I lived where growth ought to happen, I welcomed growth in my literal backyard. Now I live where growth ought not happen, so I don’t welcome it. Does that make me a “NIMBY”? Or does that simply indicate that my backyard isn’t suitable for development?

  6. Maybe they can get some lighter trucks. Emergency services are not always managed rationally. Lot of ego. I wonder how much the water tanker trucks weigh and where they are based.

  7. Approximate distance from Stony Point Fire Department to the Proffit Road Train Bridge ~ 5.1 Miles (~9min)

    Approximate distance from Stony Point Fire Department to Intersection with 29 (Watts Passage Rd) ~ 6.4 miles (11min)

    Approximate distance from Interection of Watts Passage Rd and Rt29 to Proffit Road Train Bridge ~ 6.7 miles (11min)

    Times/Distances taken from GoogleEarth

    The decision to reduce the weight limits on Profitt Road Train Bridge is increasing the effective response rate by at least two times the regular response rate(respect to time and distance.)

    CSX needs better planners or VDOT, cause the math is not adding up here.

  8. Perhaps it would be possible to provide structural reinforcement of the existing bridge in order to accomadate another 5 tons or so. If this isn’t VDOT’s problem then the County should check with CSX and then hire a civil engineer to go take a look at it to see what could be done.

    It is not right to deny a building permit due to Stony Point’s slow response time.

    In the course of my job I regularly have to analyze the risk of fire to large, high value homes in rural areas. The basic issues are whether there is a first reponder within 5 miles and then can water adequate for a building of that size be brought on site rapidly enough to constantly supply the firefighters. Yes, this can be accomplished by every fire truck in the County descending within 10 minutes and bringing enough water all at once. But depending on the geography you can get the same amount of water onto the fire by doing things like having Charlottesville’s trucks and Earlysville tag-team so that while one truck is putting water on the fire another is shuttling back to a hydrant to fill up and going back and forth like that. Or if there is already an accessible water source on site which the trucks can reach on a paved surface without venturing into the collapse zone of the building then that solves the problem right there.

    I have had many clients install dry hydrants off of ponds, pools or purpose-built tanks in order to accomplish this.

  9. It is not right to deny a building permit due to Stony Point’s slow response time.

    Of course it is. You’re just setting the bar lower than I would have set it.

    If a rocket fuel factory wanted to set up just west of the bridge, a quarter mile from the elementary school, and the county determined that the response time from fire companies was inadequate and the the factory could not adequately ameliorate the risk (sprinklered building, accessible water source, fire-retardant compartmentalized construction, etc.) then it would would be crazy let them build there.

    I’m not talking about constructing a house. I’m talking about the sort of things that, when they catch on fire, people have to be evacuated for a half mile in all directions.

  10. Rocket fuel factory, different story. The vast majority of building permits are for houses and I can’t think of the last time that something of such a major industrial nature was built in Albemarle county. I presumed that you were referring to permits for very large houses.

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