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Cashie Bridge contract awarded

RALEIGH – The long-awaited work on the U.S. 17 Bridge spanning the Cashie River in Windsor is expected to begin later this month.

Last week, North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti awarded a $1.9 million contract to Kirkman Construction Inc. of Huntersville to replace the existing bridge. Work is scheduled to begin as early as July 27, with final completion set for May 15, 2011.

After much debate, the new bridge will be constructed in phases, a fact that will stretch the project out for nearly two years rather than a shorter period of time had the bridge been replaced all at one time.

“We coordinated this project after many discussions with town of Windsor officials,” said DOT Division One Construction Engineer Bob Capehart. “The town provides many services to both sides of the river and consideration was given to the town because of that fact.”

Outside the normal realm of services provided by the town (water/sewer work, police/fire/rescue calls) to the residents on the east side of the bridge, Capehart mentioned how complete closure of the bridge would impact easy access to Bertie Memorial Hospital and the state prison located on Cooper Hill Road (NC 305, southeast of the bridge).

“The only other option (to reach the east side of the river) would be to use the new (US 17) bypass,” Capehart said.

With the construction process scheduled to be performed in phases, there will be no need for an off-site detour.

However, through-trucks will not be allowed to cross the bridge during the construction phase. Local delivery trucks will be permitted to cross the bridge.

Capehart added that bridge crossings during the construction period will be controlled by automated traffic signals.

While he noted that the construction time is extended due to performing the job one lane at the time, there was another factor adding to the length of the project.

“The contractor must abide by moratoriums on the Cashie River involving migratory fish,” Capehart said. “Between February and June, no construction can be performed where that work involves equipment in the water. That means no new pilings can be driven for the new bridge or old pilings removed during that time frame. However, construction will not completely stop as the contractor can perform other, non water-related construction tasks between February and June.”

DOT Division One Resident Engineer Shawn Mebane, based out of the Williamston office, will oversee the project. He said the new bridge will remain as a two-lane span at about the same height as the existing one.

Mebane added that as part of the project, concrete sidewalks will be built from Roy’s Service Center, located east of the bridge on US 17, to the new bridge.

The 82-year-old bridge has a sufficiency rating of 46.5 out of 100. DOT officials stress that does not mean the bridge is unsafe. It means that, after studying a number of factors including bridge inspection results, traffic volumes and road widths, engineers used a standard formula to rate the bridge’s ability to remain in service. Based on those calculations, they consider the bridge “functionally obsolete” and in need of replacement.