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A bridge tender often catches tiny snapshots into people’s personal lives as they drive over or pass through their bridge. It’s a unique perspective and one of the fringe benefits of the job.


maintain bridges and structures in their road network. Two counties in Virginia, Arlington and Henrico, also maintain their own road networks. Bridge tending requires skills and train- ing best left to a specialized workforce. In a competitive bid process, U.S. Facilities Inc. currently has an operations contract for Gwynn’s Island and Eltham bridges, as well as the Benjamin Harrison Bridge in the Richmond District. There are eight moveable bridges in


Virginia: Gwynn’s Island; Eltham Bridge in West Point; Benjamin Harrison Memo- rial Bridge in Hopewell; James River Bridge in Newport News; Coleman Bridge in Gloucester; Berkley and High Rise bridges in Norfolk; and Chincoteague Island Bridge. Six of the eight bridges are manned full time, and both the Gwynn’s Island and Eltham bridges fall under the purvey of VDOT’s Fredericksburg District. U.S. Facilities employs four full-time bridge tenders to man the Gwynn’s Island Bridge: Landerkin, a thirteen year employee retired from Newsday; Ed Crocker, a twenty-one year employee who once manned the Eltham Bridge full time; James Mitchem a thirteen year veteran


and retired firefighter from Newport News Shipbuilding; and Brent Nelson, who has been employed by U.S. Facilities for two years. There are also four part-time on-call tenders if needs arise. Three of the eight tenders are currently certified to open the Eltham Bridge.


At first glance, the life of a bridge tender may appear dull and lonely, and there are certainly long hours spent gaz- ing out at the horizon between openings. Rotating shifts enable the four tenders to experience both daytime and nighttime traffic, weekdays and weekends. But the four are quick to say that they stay busy with a variety of tasks and training. They also have some of the best views in south- eastern Virginia. “We have log books that record the daily activities, reports to file if there is an incident, open and close the bridge on demand, housekeeping, and routine light maintenance on the bridge house itself,” says Landerkin, pointing out his daily duties. James Shaw, U.S. Facilities Safety Officer, adds, “Monthly we do a short tool box talk. They go through regular safety training, first aid including being CPR


swift currents of Milford Haven Inlet that flow under the Gwynn’s Island Bridge in Mathews County. The tenders monitor channel 13 on the marine band VHF radio so that boaters can alert the tenders when they require an open- ing. The Coast Guard can come through at any time of the day or night, and work boats often head out well before dawn. In sum- mer, pleasure boat traffic accounts for the vast majority of the daily openings. The Virginia Department of


Transportation maintains bridges and structures on state-maintained roadways, except in cities that


The House & Home Magazine


35


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