So far, so good on first phase of I-85 bridge project

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 13, 2011

By Karissa Minn
As building crews prepare to lay the foundation next month of the new Yadkin River Bridge, the state transportation secretary said Thursday he is impressed with the progress they’ve made so far.
N.C. Secretary of Transportation Gene Conti visited the work site of the I-85 Corridor Improvement Project and spoke to members of the media there Thursday afternoon.
“We’re very excited about getting this project under way,” Conti said. “We seem to be making good progress working together to make this a reality.”
The first phase of the project will replace several bridges, including the two spans on Interstate 85 over the Yadkin River, and widen about 3 miles of the interstate adjacent to the bridge.
He said the DOT plans to open bids next week on the second phase of the project, which will include the widening of about 3.5 miles of I-85 in Davidson County and the reconstruction of the Belmont Road interchange.
“This corridor carries a lot of truck traffic for the East Coast, and we need to make sure that they’re able to travel safely and efficiently,” he said. “It’s a very important part of economic development in this part of North Carolina and across the state.”
He also said the replacement of the nearly 60-year-old, narrow Yadkin River Bridge “has been overdue for years.”
In order to construct the northbound and southbound spans, contractor Flatiron-Lane is building a temporary bridge that will run down the center. The foundations will be built from both sides of that bridge.
Clearing and grading has largely been completed for the northbound side of the interstate leading up to the Yadkin River bridge. Clearing also has begun on the north side of N.C. 150 where it meets the interstate.
Adam Mathews, project manager with Flatiron-Lane, said crews have moved 60,000 cubic yards of dirt since work began at the end of September, with about 500,000 cubic yards to go. But severe weather and lingering snow and ice have hindered that progress.
“Our dirt moving operations have essentially shut down now until the weather cooperates again, and we don’t know when that will be,” Mathews said. “But the structural side of things — the trestle and the bridge — is still moving and still on track.”
If construction stays on schedule, traffic will be moved from the old northbound bridge to the new one by the end of this year. Work is expected to be completed on this phase of the project by January 2013.
Except in “extremely severe” weather, Mathews said, work is continuing 24 hours a day, 6 days a week in an effort to complete the project as quickly as possible.
Currently, about 20 people during the day and 10 people at night are working on the project, he said. About 30 to 40 workers will be out at a time once construction on the bridge foundation starts in February.
The foundation will be laid as the temporary bridge is extended, with some lag time to create space for construction.
“We’re hoping that by the time we get to the end of the trestle, we’ll be getting ready to put girders on this bridge,” Mathews said.
Conti praised the pace of the work, as well as Flatiron-Lane’s partnership with subcontractors and the DOT. He said he appreciated their efforts to keep environmental sensitivity a priority. The bridge will span not only the Yadkin River but wetlands on either side.
“They’re making good progress,” Conti said. “They are working through very difficult environmental conditions, and the weather adds an additional challenge.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.