It will soon be the beginning of the end for a historic bridge spanning the Truckee River in downtown Reno. Crews in January are expected to begin removing utility lines that run through the Virginia Street Bridge, paving the way for the aging structure's demolition and construction of a new bridge.
The bridge, built in 1905, was made famous by divorcees who tossed rings from it into the Truckee when Reno was the world's divorce capital from roughly 1910 to 1970.
Reno still awaits issuance of a federal permit needed to enter the river and begin major demolition of the bridge, but utility work can proceed in the meantime, said Kerri Lanza, an engineering manager for the city.
"This is going to help us a great deal in order to hit the road running," Lanza told the Reno Gazette-Journal
Major construction is likely to begin next June, with the structure replaced sometime in 2016.
The concrete, double-arched bridge needs to be replaced not only because of its age, officials said, but because it acts as a bottleneck during floods and causes water to pour onto downtown streets.
The construction of a new "bowstring truss" bridge that allows easier passage of debris-laden floodwaters is a major component of the Truckee River Flood project.
"It's critical to do this," said Jay Aldean, flood project director. "The Virginia Street Bridge is crumbling as we speak. It's probably one of the worst bridges in the country."
Construction bids are scheduled to be awarded by the Reno City Council in March, and major demolition is expected to begin in June.
Removal of the existing bridge and construction of the new one could take up to 18 months to complete, but strong incentives are in place to finish the job early, city officials said.