T. Tyler Potterfield Bridge Wins Engineering Award

The City of Richmond’s new pedestrian span across the James River, the T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, has been recognized with the American Council of Engineering Companies of Virginia (ACEC Virginia) Engineering Excellence Merit Award in the Special Projects – Recreational Facilities category.

The bridge provides a non-motorized, universally accessible route across the James River rapids, connecting south bank Manchester & the James River Park System with north bank of downtown Richmond.

The City’s master plan identified a plan to reuse existing concrete piers in the river, leftover from a rail bridge, to form a shared-use path. By reusing the existing dam structure (formerly known as the Brown’s Island Dam Walk), the project team minimized environmental impacts to the James River.

AECOM and Howard Shockey & Sons, Inc led the construction team. The design team included Hargreaves Associates, VHB, and Moffatt & Nichol.

Some project highlights include:

  • The 1,700-long shared use pathway rests on the blackened steel structure of a 1901 Vepco levee, a hydro power dam that once harnessed power for riverfront industry along the James River.
  • Where the new bridge reaches the south side of the James River, at the Manchester Climbing Wall, there’s a 60-foot rise to ground level. There had never been an ADA-accessible trail to the top of the Climbing Wall before. Civil engineer VHB developed a plan to wrap the shared-use path around the embankment behind the Climbing Wall, using a design that meets the radii requirements for bike lanes.
  • Shockey creatively re-used the rail tracks remaining from the old bridge to support the crane, further minimizing impacts to the river during construction.

“This project is a shining example of not only engineering excellence, but also of what we in the engineering industry can accomplish through teamwork and collaboration,” stated Mark Olinger, Director, City of Richmond Department of Planning & Development Review.

The T. Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge offers universal access across the James River. This innovative project promotes sustainability by reusing the existing structure to minimize environmental impacts of working in the James River, providing access to the water, and promoting bicycle and pedestrian connectivity.