State replacing old N.C. 801 bridge between Rowan, Cooleemee
By Lee Ann Sides Garrett
Woodleaf and Cooleemee residents already enduring long detours because of bridge construction on Woodleaf Road may be in for more bridge woes in the near future.
N.C. Department of Transportation is currently working to replace the bridge on N.C. 801 between Woodleaf and Cooleemee.
Bridge No. 6704 was built in 1940 and has been deemed structurally deficient.
The N.C. Department of Transportation Web site defines structurally deficient as “in relatively poor condition or has insufficient load-carrying capacity.”
Tim Canup, state transportation engineer and manager of the project, says the substructure of the bridge has deteriorated.
“It would cost more to rehab it than replace it,” Canup says.
Construction crews are installing the new bridge right beside the old one, with only about 25 feet between the two.
Canup offers local residents reason for optimism: The project is about 15 percent ahead of schedule. The projected completion date is June 1, 2009. Officials plan to demolish the old bridge once the new one is completed.
Cooleemee resident Ron Howell says the old bridge is unusual, and he would like to see it preserved. He says many people believe it is the first curved bridge built in North Carolina.
N.C. Transportation Museum Historian Walter Turner and historian Mary Pope Furr don’t believe that is true.
Whether it is the first curved bridge or not, the town of Cooleemee decided it couldn’t afford to take responsibility for preserving ó and maintaining ó the old bridge.
“I like that old bridge,” says Howell, “I thought it might be nice to save it and fish off it or something.”
Canup says the new bridge will not be curved. He says it’s cheaper to curve the road than build a curved bridge.
“Our design people built the curve into the road,” he says.
While the bridge is under construction, Canup asks those traveling the road to watch the speed limits.
“On one side, the limit is 35 and 45 on the other. People are still doing 55,” Canup says. “People need to cut us a break and slow down.”
Canup says traffic will stay on the existing bridge until the new one is completed.