I-85 bridge takes shape

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 29, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — The new I-85 Yadkin River Bridge should start to take shape in just a couple of weeks as construction continues on schedule.
“We had some issues with drilling, but we’re picking back up now,” said Jim Barton, construction manager with contractor Flatiron-Lane, at the project site Wednesday.
Crews have been building the two spans of the bridge from a temporary work bridge constructed between them.
They use heavy machinery to drill shafts deep into the ground, remove the soil and water and fill the shafts with rebar and concrete. On top of the shafts rest slightly smaller columns, which are connected above in rows of four by concrete caps.
Barton said in the second week of June, the workers will start to set the long girders that support the roadway, “and at that point, it will start looking like something.”
Construction slows down, though, when the drills hit hard rock. A large tool made of several pneumatic hammers is then used to pulverize the rock, break through and continue drilling.
Darin Waller, resident engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation, said the depth of the shafts depends on the type of soil workers run into.
“A lot of this is pretty much being designed as we go,” Waller said. “We have an initial design, and if we encounter something different, the designers get involved.”
Tim Canup, assistant resident engineer with the transportation department, said there are now close to 150 people working onsite, not counting the offsite designers.
About 20 subcontractors are working different aspects of the project, he said, from earth moving to railroad crossings to signage.
Some are using eight towering cranes to get the job done. Six of those cranes rest on the nearly-completed temporary work bridge. They must move along a specific path
To help keep crews safe, Canup said, the N.C. Highway Patrol assigns extra troopers about once a month to slow down drivers in the construction zone.
The first phase of the I-85 Corridor Improvement Project will replace eight bridges, including the Yadkin River Bridge. It also will widen a 3.3-mile stretch of I-85 from four lanes to eight lanes and realign it. This phase began in late September 2010 and is set to be completed by January 2013.
Land has been cleared along that section of the interstate, from just north of Long Ferry Road in Rowan County to just north of N.C. 150 in Davidson County.
Some of the cleared land has been seeded temporarily with grass, Canup said. This helps prevent erosion and keeps the soil in place until it’s paved over.
Several other environmental protections are in place, including efforts to cross wetlands there with as little disturbance as possible.
“These guys (at Flatiron-Lane) asked environmental agencies to come out here on regular basis,” Canup said. “They’re required to for audits and inspections, but monthly or so, they’re just getting out here just to make sure everything is going OK.”
Also included in the first phase of the project is the removal of the Clark Road interchange and the reconstruction of the N.C. 150 interchange.
The first few columns are in place for the N.C. 150 overpass, which is scheduled to be the next part of the project completed. Workers are using heavy machines to compact and grade the two dirt platforms that will support the road on either side of the interstate.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.