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Replacing Reno's Virginia Street Bridge

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New Virginia Street Bridge is Open

New Virginia Street Bridge, Reno, Nevada, NV
A big crowd attended the ribbon-cutting for Reno's new Virginia Street Bridge on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge Ribbon-Cutting - Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 11 a.m. The public is invited to join in the official opening of the new bridge. Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve will lead the ceremony along with other guest speakers. A procession of transportation history will cross the new bridge. It will feature vehicles covering the era during which the old bridge served Reno, with a world champion mule team, several historic vehicles from the National Automobile Museum and a modern Tesla. There will also be a performance from the Reno Wind Symphony. The bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic for the remainder of the day.

New Virginia Street Bridge across the Truckee River

The Virginia Street Bridge, built in 1905, is the latest in a series of spans that have carried traffic over the Truckee River at this spot since 1860. Like all those before it, the useful life of this bridge is coming to an end.

Virginia Street Bridge, Reno, Nevada
Reno's Virginia Street Bridge (view looking downstream and east from the Sierra Street Bridge). Photo © Stan White

The project to demolish the old bridge and erect a new one is well under way. In February, 2015, crews began re-routing utility lines that used the bridge to cross the Truckee River. Later in 2015, when all necessary permits are in place, work to demolish the old bridge and begin erecting its replacement will get started. The project is estimated to take 12 to 15 months to complete.

Get More Information about the Virginia Street Bridge Replacement

This big project will affect most everyone in the Reno area in one way or another. Fortunately, a website dedicated to making information readily accessible has been created - "Virginia Street Bridge Project." Links to main sections on the site are provided below, but you can learn even more by visiting the site.

At 110 years old, the Virginia Street Bridge is crumbling. It was determined that trying to repair it was not feasible and that a primary goal, improving flood control, could not be accomplished without removing the double arched bridge and replacing it with a modern structure that will not cause the Truckee River to back up and flood downtown Reno during times of extraordinary high water flows. This has actually happened several times over the years, including the devastating flood of 1997 and a significant event in 2005.

For more information about flooding along the Truckee River and things that are being done to help lessen the threat and improve the river corridor, refer to "Truckee River Flood Project."

New Virginia Street Bridge groundbreaking ceremony, Reno, Nevada
Reno City Council members, past and present, participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for Reno's new Virginia Street Bridge. Photo © Stan White

History of the Virginia Street Bridge

During the heyday of Reno's divorce trade, the Virginia Street Bridge became literally world famous as the place where new divorcees would throw their wedding rings into the Truckee River after their divorces were finalized at the nearby Washoe County Courthouse. This procedure was even depicted in a couple of movies, but any proof that anyone really did this is pretty sketchy. It's a fun story, though.

The Virginia Street Bridge did, however, become a well recognized symbol of the growing city of Reno. It also came to be seen as a piece of Reno's history and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Alas, even concrete doesn't last forever when subjected to constant, and sometimes violent, pounding from flowing water. After a flood in 2005 severely damaged the bridge's foundation, studies showed the cost of preserving it to be prohibitive when compared to replacement with a new structure.

For more details on the interesting history of the Virginia Street Bridge, refer to these sources...

Old Virginia Street Bridge, Reno, Nevada
Reno's Virginia Street Bridge is crumbling and is scheduled to be replaced during 2015 - 2016. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge demolition, Reno, Nevada
South span of the old Virginia Street Bridge has been removed, as of 6/15/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge demolition, Reno, Nevada
Both spans of the Virginia Street bridge are gone. Crews in this photo are busy clearing out the old concrete and other bridge debris. Next step is work to prepare the site for installation of the new span. 6/24/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge site work, Reno, Nevada
Heavy equipment working on the new bridge support sites on each bank of the Truckee River. 7/21/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge site work, Reno, Nevada
Moving dirt and rocks - site work continues for the new Virginia Street Bridge. 7/31/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge site work, Reno, Nevada
North side support for the new Virginia Street Bridge span going up. 8/28/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge site work, Reno, Nevada
Building the concrete bridge arches that will span the Truckee River. 10/2/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge new arches, Reno, Nevada
New bridge arches will be moved across the river on the temporary supports seen in the foreground. After the arches are secured, the supports will be removed. 10/2/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge new arches moving into place over river, Reno, Nevada
Arches for the new Virginia Street Bridge are being moved into place across the Truckee River. 10/14/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge new arches in place across the Truckee River, Reno, Nevada
Arches for the new Virginia Street Bridge are in place across the Truckee River. Work is now being done on bridge approaches on each side and on the bridge itself. 11/13/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge worker atop one of the new arches, Reno, Nevada
Virginia Street Bridge worker atop one of the new arches across the Truckee River. 12/2/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
The new Virginia Street Bridge is taking shape. The deck is partially completed and work continues on the street approaches at each end. 12/2/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
Welder working on the new Virginia Street Bridge in Reno. 12/7/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
Workers swarm over the new Virginia Street Bridge, taking shape in downtown Reno, Nevada. 12/7/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
Roadway and sidewalks under construction on the new Virginia Street Bridge in downtown Reno, Nevada. 12/22/15. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
Workers under the west arch on the new Virginia Street Bridge in downtown Reno, Nevada. 1/8/16. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
Support structures in the river are now gone from the new Virginia Street Bridge in downtown Reno, Nevada. Roadway and sidewalk concrete decking is in place and work is being done on streets and sidewalks at each end of the bridge. 2/4/16. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
This will be a new river access area just downstream from the new Virginia Street Bridge in downtown Reno, Nevada. It is across from Reno City Hall on the north side of the Truckee River. 2/4/16. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
The new Virginia Street Bridge now has its roadway and sidewalks. Approaches on each end are nearing completion, along with walkways and pedestrial plazas. 2/24/16. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
View looking north at the new Virginia Street Bridge shows the roadway and arches, which have had the construction braces removed and now stand on their own. 2/24/16. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
Workers are putting the finishing touches on the areas around the new Virginia Street Bridge. This area is City Plaza, on the north side of the Truckee River. 3/16/16. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
New pedestrian railing going up on the new Virginia Street Bridge. This finish work is leading up to the bridge opening in April of 2016. 3/16/16. Photo © Stan White

Virginia Street Bridge work site in Reno, Nevada
The new Virginia Street Bridge is almost ready for the ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday, April 12, 2016. 4/6/16. Photo © Stan White

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