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Deck truss bridge worries officials

Local officials voiced concerns about a 2-mile bridge that links the Northern Neck to the Middle Peninsula one day before the deadly bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The two-lane Robert O. Norris Bridge over the Rappahannock River is among a dozen deck truss bridges in Virginia that share design similarities with the Minnesota bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River on Aug. 1.

The Virginia Department of Transportation began a federally requested review Monday of the Norris span and the 11 others.

On the eve of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, Northern Neck officials met with state Transportation Commissioner David S. Ekern in Kilmarnock to express doubts that the Norris Bridge could serve their region much longer.

“We’ve all been assured it’s in good shape,” said Delegate Robert J. Wittman, Westmoreland Republican, who arranged the meeting with Mr. Ekern. “But, we all know the bridge is not going to last forever.”

The district’s VDOT bridge engineer, Gary Shelor, estimates that a new, four-lane bridge would cost about $150 million. In 1957, the Norris Bridge was completed for less than $15 million.

The steel span carries state Route 3 in a soaring arc 110 feet above the tidal Rappahannock River.

NORFOLK

Pile of oily rags causes school fire

A two-alarm fire at Maury High School early yesterday was caused by a pile of oily rags that spontaneously combusted, Norfolk fire investigators said.

More than 100 football players and coaches were spending the night in the school as part of a football camp, but no one was hurt.

Fire Battalion Chief Bruce Evans said investigators determined that the blaze was caused by oily rags and combustible cleaning agents, which were being used to refinish the gymnasium floor.

Chief Evans said the rags burst into flames and caused $10,000 worth of damage to the floor, bleachers, walls and ceiling.

The 96 players and six coaches were sleeping in the school’s cafeteria when the fire alarms sounded from the gym at the other end of the school at about 3:15 a.m. Chief Evans said the coaches evacuated the players.

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