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Accidents Prompt Questions About Safety on Low Water Bridges

They are known for their scenic beauty and small town historic charm, but after recent accidents, some are questioning if low water bridges are safe.

WARREN COUNTY, VA - They are known for their scenic beauty and small town historic charm, but after recent accidents, some are questioning if low water bridges are safe.

"It's very old, but it's dangerous too," said Clarke County resident, Margie Yowell. "That's been proven because of the deaths that have happened here.”

There are 39 low water bridges across the Northern Shenandoah Valley in Warren, Clarke, Frederick and Shenandoah Counties. Many of the bridges were built in the early 1900s. 

"I like them," said Warren County resident, George Lewis Sr. "I think they're neat." 

"I'm 82 years old and that bridge has been there ever since I can remember," said Daniel Yowell Sr. about the Morgan Ford Road Low Water Bridge. "It's time to replace it.”

Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation say low water bridges have a lifespan that they can reach and will need repairs or replacement. They say engineers inspect all bridges every two years or less to see if the condition warrants replacement or remodeling. 

"Make it wider so it doesn’t hold the traffic up," said Daniel Yowell of the Morgan Ford Road one-lane bridge. 


The Indian Hollow Bridge in Warren County is currently under construction to become a two-lane bridge, but some residents don't welcome the change.


"They're different," Lewis said of two lane bridges. "They served a purpose when they were built."

The one lane Morgan Ford Low Water Bridge built in 1925 in Warren County has seen multiple fatal accidents over the years. The latest claimed two young lives over the weekend.


"You get this feeling as you're coming over it that is kind of scary," Margie Yowell said. "There is nothing on either side to keep you from going over if you happen to look away for an instant."
 
While they are known for their beauty, VDOT says their top priority is safety.

The Virginia Department of Transportation is currently in the design phases to rebuild the Morgan Ford Road Bridge with two lanes. They expect to start the project in 2016. 


Becky Dempsey, the mother of Coty Ferguson, the teen who died in Saturday's crash on Morgan Ford Low Water Bridge, spoke out against the structures. She says she wants the bridges to be wider and safer for other drivers.

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