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State: Crumbling St. Matthews Church Road causeway to remain closed

State transportation officials say a causeway on High Rock Lake at St. Matthews Church Road is damaged too extensively for vehicle use and will remain closed until repairs can be made.

The N.C. Department of Transportation did not say how long that might be.

The crumbling causeway has been closed for months, and the lake level prevented inspection. When Alcoa Power Generating Inc. lowered the water earlier this fall, geotechnical engineers were able to perform an inspection.

“The foundation of the 85-year old causeway has slowly eroded, creating a situation where the road can no longer support the vehicles that travel it every day.” Transportation Department Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey said in a news release. “The narrow construction of this causeway has also contributed to the compromised causeway, requiring the widening of St. Matthews Church Road by approximately 20 feet.”

Since the investigation was completed, state engineers have been working to develop repair plans to determine how much the project will cost, the news release said. They are crafting a plan to minimize the construction time, as local and commuter traffic will be impacted by the road closures. Drivers are encouraged to use Stokes Ferry Road and Bringle Ferry Road to navigate around the closure. A map of the area can be seen here.

“Local public safety agencies including law enforcement, fire, EMS, Emergency Management and Rescue were notified and instituted modified response plans, where needed, due to the closure,” said Rowan County Chief of Emergency Services Frank Thomason regarding the initial closure of St. Matthews Church Road.

Tim Beck, director of transportation for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said safety of students “is of utmost importance” and the school system will use other available roads to get students to and from school.

Morgan Elementary is one of several schools directly affected by the unsafe causeway.

“What would normally take us 5-10 minutes is now taking us 15-20, but parents and students have had time to adjust to extra commute time,” Assistant Principal Barbara Eudy said. “The bottom line is my buses will not go down that road if it’s unsafe, and the DOT has made the determination that the road isn’t safe for our kids or anyone else.”

Jake Alexander of Salisbury, state transportation board member for Division 9, said in the news release, the “first priority is public safety, which means we must endure the temporary inconvenience in order to protect the safety of citizens. While we are working as quickly as possible to address this situation, we must take every precaution possible to avoid a potential tragedy, which is what we are dealing with at High Rock Lake.”

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