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Shockoe Valley Viaducts

Traversing the various valleys in Richmond could be challenging and mean a long walk up many of the city’s famous hills. Over the years, the city built numerous bridges and viaducts--structures carrying cars, trains, and passengers over a valley. On February 12, 1911, the Marshall Street Viaduct, built by the Richmond and Henrico Railway, opened, connecting College Street on the eastern edge of the MCV Campus with 21st Street at Jefferson Park. Embedded tracks allowed trolleys to cross the valley along with cars which paid a toll from the opening of the viaduct until 1935. A unique feature was the elevator installed in 1915 that carried passengers from factories and other businesses at the base of Shockoe Valley up some 90 feet to the viaduct. Although the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike ran below the viaduct, keeping it a viable thoroughfare, the span eventually fell into disrepair. The city closed it in 1970 for safety reasons, closing the Marshall Street entrance to MCV. 

Instead of undertaking costly repairs to the Marshall Street Viaduct, the city opted to remove it and eventually, thanks to funds from the federal and state governments, approved a new bridge over Shockoe Valley.  The new span, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge, opened on September 17, 1976, after several delays and the loss of two lives. Dubbed the highway to nowhere, city planners had envisioned the new viaduct as a potential bypass and connector to highways leading to the Richmond airport. Its overwhelming scale hemmed in Richmond’s housing developments and failed to connect Church Hill residents with downtown Richmond. Over the years, it has become a major east-west route across the city, complete with bike and pedestrian lanes.