3/18/2018 – Connelly Springs Road/Castle Bridge project may not require full closure

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by admin


March 18, 2018


By Virginia Annable
(Lenoir) News-Topic


Castle Bridge may not have to close for repairs after all, N.C. Department of Transportation officials say.


New options from NCDOT for the bridge, which carries Connelly Springs Road over the Catawba River, open the possibility of closing only one lane at a time during construction — which officials previously said was not possible — or leaving the bridge open and building an entirely new bridge alongside it.


The original plan, announced in January, was to close the bridge to all traffic for 14 months to replace the top deck and deteriorating steel beams. After public outcry and pressure from local officials and state legislators, the NCDOT reduced the projected closure time to eight months.


But at a meeting at Rutherford College Town Hall, Division 13 Maintenance Engineer Mark Gibbs laid out three more options for officials to consider: The bridge could be closed for six to eight months; one lane at a time could be closed for 18 months; or the bridge could get minor repairs while a new bridge is planned.


State and local officials from Caldwell and Burke counties at the meeting unequivocally backed making minor repairs to the bridge and building a brand new bridge.


The minor repairs would cost about $1 million to $2 million. The cost of a new bridge would be about $20 million.


The minor repairs would close the bridge for about a week at the most, Gibbs said, and make the bridge last about five more years, just enough time to study, plan and find funding for a new two-lane bridge, though it could be tight and the plan is still tentative.


“We have to confirm that the repairs would be able to keep the bridge safe and accommodate all traffic,” Gibbs said. “If the new bridge got delayed, we could end up right back where we are right now.”


Making full repairs to Castle Bridge would extend its life another 50 years, but an entirely new bridge could last 100 years.


A new bridge could be a standalone project or linked to the widening of Connelly Spring Road to four lanes, from Dry Ponds Road north to Lenoir, which is slated to begin in the 2024-25 fiscal year, Gibbs said.


Gibbs said the option that looked most promising to him was to do the full repairs to Castle Bridge while keeping one lane open. It would cost $10 million to $12 million. Because this would extend the bridge’s life for 50 years, Gibbs said, this would give ample time for a new bridge to be built in the future.


Officials attending the meeting resoundingly rejected the least expensive option, fully closing Castle Bridge for six to eight months, which would cost about $6 million. Officials rattled off the numerous problems the closure would bring to both counties, including businesses losing customers and employees being unable to get to work.


“What I’m hearing from you, if nothing else,” Gibbs said, “is that you don’t want the bridge fully closed.”


The project contract is supposed to reopen for new bids in April, though the changes discussed could push back that date. The project is still expected to start in the fall, around October, Gibbs said.


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