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Ammo found in Gilmerton Bridge's 1938 concrete

Gilmerton Bridge closures are typically planned in advance.

Friday's was not.

A construction crew demolishing part of the old bridge span as a new vertical-lift bridge is completed across South Military Highway found something irregular in concrete - old military ammunition.

Construction crews called 911 at 7:45 a.m. - morning rush hour - and the bridge that spans the Elizabeth River was sealed off to traffic until 3:45 p.m.

Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians responded to the scene and found three inert artillery shells about 15 inches long, said Capt. Scott Saunders, a Fire Department spokesman. They were encased in concrete that was part of the bridge's counterweight system, and more were on the scene, he said. The Army Corps of Engineers will handle disposal of the rest, he added.

"I don't know why that would be in there. It's odd," Saunders said.

More than 35,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

"We've never had this type of situation before - military ordnance on the site," said Brooke Grow, a VDOT spokeswoman. "We're in a military community. The great thing is, we have the resources that are needed to remedy the situation."

Vehicle traffic was rerouted to the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge, a toll road to the north, and the High-Rise Bridge, on Interstate 64 to the south, while the bridge was closed.

The Coast Guard also halted boat traffic on the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River from Money Point to the High-Rise Bridge.

The bridge-construction project started in November 2009 and is expected to be completed in January 2014.

Since the project began, the bridge has been closed intermittently as crews have worked on it.

Last month, the $134 million project passed a milestone when workers floated a steel span weighing more than 5 million pounds down the river and installed it between two 14-story towers. The span will rise to allow marine traffic to pass beneath.

The project is in its final phase as crews dismantle the remains of the old bridge, built in 1938, and add two lanes to make the new bridge four lanes across.
 

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