Mayor presses for N.C. 218 bridge work

May. 02, 2013 @ 05:14 PM

The bridge over Goose Creek on N.C. 218 is scheduled for replacement soon.

Fairview Mayor Libby Long asked N.C. Department of Transportation officials to replace the bridge replacement years ago. And though the project has been on the agency’s to-do list, funding shortages pushed replacement into the future more than once.

“Back in 2009, the bridge started showing wear,” Long said. “The bridge is old. It wasn’t designed to carry a lot of traffic. And over the last few years, we’ve gotten more and more traffic on 218.”

According to NCDOT data from February 2013, 121 of Union County’s 318 bridges are deficient. There are 54 that are structurally deficient bridges, ones in “relatively poor condition” or have insufficient load-carrying capacity. Another 62 are functionally obsolete, or carry more traffic than its designed for, are narrow, have inadequate under-clearance or not well aligned with the road. Seven are rated for vehicles under 13 tons only.

The 218 bridge over Goose Creek was built in 1950 and is both structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.

“It needed work done on it years ago. I worry what might happen before they get around to fixing it. Will someone have to get hurt before something’s done?” Long said.

NCDOT officials regularly inspects and maintains bridges statewide, Division 10 Bridge Maintenance Engineer Kevin Bridges said. Right now, the bridge is safe.

“It was inspected back in November,” he said. “It’s not dangerous, but it’s in pretty bad shape. The bridge project lets, or goes to contract for construction, at the end of this year.”

Long contacted Rep. Mark Brody R-55 asking for his help in expediting the project. His effort helped, but NCDOT still has to do environmental studies because Goose Creek is a habitat to the Carolina Heelsplitter.

The freshwater mussel is a critically endangered, federally protected species found only in areas of North and South Carolina. Before construction can begin, officials must search Goose Creek to determine if there are Heelsplitters living near the bridge site, NCDOT Bridge Program Manager Garland Haywood said.

“We’re pretty much in the last phase of bridge design, but we also have the environmental study to complete so it will probably be 2014 before we begin construction,” Haywood said.

If Heelsplitters are found, construction must disturb the creek bed as little as possible, he said. Workers will likely detour traffic around the bridge as it is dismantled and rebuilt.

“Often times we stage bridge construction. He leave the old bridge open while we build the new bridge next to it,” Haywood said. “When the new one’s done, we open it to traffic while we remove the old bridge.”

But that method will not work here, he said.

Even with construction beginning on time, it will likely be March before dirt is moved. It takes an average of 9 months to complete a bridge of this size, Haywood said.