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State, city launch feasibility study for new Jackson Ward bridge in Richmond

State, city launch feasibility study for new Jackson Ward bridge in Richmond

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RTD A1 - Dec. 10, 2021

The Virginia Department of Transportation and Richmond City planners are starting work on a feasibility study that will explore the option of building a new bridge deck over I-95 in the Jackson Ward neighborhood.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced the start of the study on Thursday, noting that the goal of the project is to assess possible infrastructure projects that would help reconnect the historic African American community that was divided when the interstate roadway was originally built in the 1950s.

“In the past, highway construction too often destroyed neighborhoods in the name of ‘progress,’” Northam said in a statement. “Now, some 70 years later, we now have the opportunity to explore ways to right these wrongs and re-connect historic neighborhoods.”

A spokesperson for the governor said VDOT has allocated $825,000 from a planning budget for the study. Federal funding could also soon be available from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that President Joe Biden signed last month.

State officials said the study will begin with a “community visioning process” in the coming months to gather ideas and feedback from local residents and business owners.

“Through this collaborative process, we plan to develop critical technical analysis and potential design options to support the city of Richmond’s goal of reconnecting Jackson Ward,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The study results and conceptual designs will also provide information needed for grant and funding options for this revitalization priority.”

The bridge concept is highlighted as a potential infrastructure project in the city’s Richmond 300 master plan that the City Council adopted last year. Conceptual ideas for the bridge describes the possibility of parks, buildings and new roads being built over the highway in the Jackson Ward area.

Once known as the “Harlem of the South” in recognition of its cultural and economic prestige, Jackson Ward is bisected by the highway, leaving the Gilpin Court public housing community to the north isolated from the rest of the neighborhood. State and local officials say the divide has limited its growth and connectivity to downtown Richmond in recent decades.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney in a news release noted that the study comes as local city and housing authority officials are also beginning to work on redevelopment plans for Gilpin Court.

“State and federal housing and highway projects severed Jackson Ward, destroyed Black homes, and displaced thousands of Black residents,” Stoney said. “This feasibility study, coupled with the recently announced HUD Choice Neighborhood Planning Grant for Jackson Ward [and] Gilpin, is an important next step toward healing these two communities and bridging the physical space between them.”

More information about the project and feasibility study can be found online at


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