Major north-south bridge will close

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2005

EDENTON – The news isn’t as bad as first anticipated.

Plans remain in the works to close the NC 45 bridge this summer for much-needed repairs, but that work will not take what was first rumored as an 18-month project.

According to Anthony Roper, an engineer assigned to the NC Department of Transportation’s Division One office in Edenton, the project will use the latest technology in bridge work and is expected to take only 30 days to complete.

Roper said the bridge – one that links Bertie and Washington counties by spanning the Cashie, Middle and Roanoke rivers – would be closed to all traffic this summer while the work is being performed.

&uot;If this was a multi-lane bridge, we could re-route traffic onto two lanes and work on the other two and then vice-versa,&uot; Roper said. &uot;However, this is a narrow, two-lane bridge. Figuring in the width of the equipment projected to be used on this particular project and especially considering the safety of those working on the bridge and the motorists using the span while repairs are being made, it’s just safer to close it completely until the project is finished.&uot;

That project will prove unique to North Carolina.

The old method of using a milling machine and jackhammers to rip up the old concrete will be replaced by hydro demolition, a process used successfully in other states. Roper said that process employs the use of pressurized water that quickly shears the layers of concrete, all the way down to the deck. New concrete will then be poured, making for a smooth riding surface.

&uot;There’s nothing structurally wrong with the NC 45 bridge,&uot; Roper noted. &uot;The structure is in great shape; it’s the concrete from the deck up that’s the problem. It’s old and full of potholes.&uot;

Roper added that the project is now in the final planning stages. The focus has now shifted to protecting the river and any aquatic environment that may be affected by the run-off or discharge associated with removing concrete by the hydro demolition process. He said one final piece of paperwork, a storm water permit from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is all that’s left to complete before the bid can be awarded.

&uot;We hope to award the bid in May or June and have the work completed by late July, or early August at the latest,&uot; he said. &uot;We will notify the traveling public in plenty of time of when the project will begin.&uot;

One of the major concerns with this project was finishing the work as quickly as possible in order not to inconvenience those who rely on this bridge on a daily basis.

Stan White of Dare County, who represents Division One on the State Board of Transportation, said he welcomed the idea of using the hydro demolition process.

&uot;This particular project has been the subject of much discussion over the past two to three years,&uot; White said on Thursday from his office in Nags Head. &uot;What we were looking for was a way to quickly complete this process without placing a travel burden on those who use this bridge on a regular basis.&uot;

White said he had heard the grumblings from the area’s citizens over what was first thought to be an 18-month project.

&uot;I spoke with one gentleman who lives about a half-mile from the bridge on the Bertie County side and works in Plymouth,&uot; White recalled. &uot;I feel for him as well as anyone that will be inconvenienced by this project. But it’s like that gentleman told me, 30 days is a lot shorter than 18 months.&uot;

Another group that would have been affected by a prolonged closure of the bridge were the students and staff at Lawrence Academy, located in Merry Hill just off NC 45. That Bertie County based independent school draws students and staff from south of the bridge in Washington and Martin counties.

&uot;I was bombarded with phone calls from the parents of Lawrence Academy students, all upset that this project, as first projected, would really put a pinch on their pocketbooks due to the 50-plus mile (one-way) daily detours,&uot; White said. &uot;But now with this project scheduled for the summer when school is not in session, it works out to their advantage.&uot;

Once the project begins, those traveling on NC 45 for access into either Bertie or Washington counties will find themselves with the option of using either US 17 at Williamston to cross the Roanoke River or the NC 37 bridge across the eastern Albemarle Sound.