ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) - Isle of Wight Sheriff Mark Marshal has written a letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation after the county obtained what it says is compelling crash data on the James River Bridge.
In just six months, Isle of Wight deputies have responded to 35 calls related to crashes on the James River Bridge. The Isle of Wight County Sheriff's Office was the primary reporting agency for 19 of them.
According to crash data compiled by Isle of Wight County, 13 of the 19 calls involved crashes during wet or rainy conditions on the new grid deck, which was completed near the end of 2012.
"That's where the accidents are happening," said Marshal. "You've got the installation of the grid deck that's the location and then the wet weather -- there seems to be a connection. That's why we've asked VDOT. They need to do something about it right now, right away."
During the entirety of 2012, there were 11 total crashes, two of which occurred on the grid deck. In 2011, there were just four total crashes, none of which occurred on the grid deck.
The crash information does not reflect those investigated by the Virginia State Police, which also handles traffic on the James River Bridge. WAVY.com has not received crash data from that agency at this time.
"We are greatly concerned about the number of vehicle crashes that have been occurring on the James River Bridge and would like to see new safety measures in place," Isle of Wight County spokeswoman Kristin Wilda said.
Due to the evidence, Sheriff Marshall wrote a letter to Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Greg Whirley.
"Recently we have seen an exponential increase in accidents on the bridge," Marshall's letter read. "More disturbing is the number of accidents on the maritime span with the recently replaced grid deck."
Tuesday, officials with VDOT, Isle of Wight County, Virginia State Police and Newport News Police Department all met to discuss the bridge. Wilda said all agreed an immediate response is warranted.
WAVY.com reached out to VDOT officials, who said they hope to have an evaluation completed within the next two weeks.
VDOT also told WAVY.com the agency uses data from Virginia State Police and the Department of Motor Vehicles, and those statistics only involve crashes where there is $1,500 or more in damage. VDOT does not account for fender benders.
Most recently, a 20-year-old Smithfield woman was killed in a crash on the grid deck. VDOT officials told WAVY.com two days after the deadly crash they had seen an increase in crashes since March and were going to conduct a safety analysis on the bridge.
We traveled to Smithfield Thursday night to get the woman's parents' response to the new developments.
"I hope this doesn't end," said Jenny Williams, Kayla Williams' mother. "I hope they keep investigating and find a solution as quickly as they can."
"My daughter had told me she had concerns with the bridge," recalled Carlton Williams, Kayla's father. "We all commute across it and we know that it's a problem. We're faced with a tragedy and the numbers are out there and they speak for their self. It won't bring my daughter back but hopefully nobody else will have to go through this."
Stay with WAVY.com for more on this developing story.
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