Traffic now  on both lanes

A sign directs drivers to cross North River using the new span, which opened over the weekend after being under construction for four years. (Dylan Ray photo)

DOWN EAST — The new North River bridge opened to two-way traffic this week and crews will soon begin removing the old structure it replaces, wrapping up a project that began nearly four years ago.

Work finished on the new span earlier this month, and crews began directing traffic to the bridge over the weekend. The bridge carries two lanes of traffic, one in each direction, and by mid-week both lanes were open.

The old bridge will be removed entirely, work N.C. Department of Transportation officials have previously said they expect to finish by the end of the year. Construction was carried out by Carolina Bridge Company out of Orangeburg, S.C., for a total cost of $14.2 million.

The new North River Bridge spans about 1,000 feet above the North River, providing the only roadway connection between Beaufort and areas Down East. It is aligned directly north and slightly elevated of the old bridge.

Construction on the new bridge began nearly four years ago in fall 2015, but talks of replacing the old structure began more than a decade ago. The original North River bridge was completed in 1959, and by the late 2000s, officials noted the structure was nearing the end of its life.

In 2009, engineers warned the condition of the bridge was deteriorating more quickly than anticipated due to salt water erosion and tidal action. At the time, construction on a replacement bridge was scheduled to begin in 2014, but officials recommended speeding up the timeline, possibly to begin as early as 2012.

In 2011, engineers deemed the bridge to be in “critical” condition and carried out about $1.5 million in emergency repairs until a new structure could be built. Despite repeated calls and concern over the condition of the original bridge, construction on the new span did not begin until fall 2015.

The opening of the new bridge has also been held up several times over the course of construction. Transportation officials anticipated it would be open by late summer or fall 2018, but the contractor did not hit that target, and construction would continue for about another year.

The entire project, including removal of the old span, was originally scheduled to be complete by Dec. 28, 2018, but that date is now Saturday, Dec. 28 of this year.

NCDOT officials have said much of the delay is due to a fish moratorium imposed by the Coastal Area Management Act to protect spawning fish in surrounding waters. The moratorium prohibits in-water work during the fish spawning season, from mid-February to the end of September, limiting the construction window.

County officials urged NCDOT to try and speed up construction, noting the aging North River bridge was a safety concern. In February 2018, county commissioners passed a resolution urging the department complete the bridge as soon as possible.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(6) comments

Core Sounder

Can anyone enlighten me as to why the fine people over at CAMA decided it was wrong to do over the water work on the new bridge from Feb thru Sept but is more than willing to allow work to be done over the water during this time period in order to tear down the old bridge? Apparently leaving the old bridge in place for folks to fish on never occurred to our County leadership since this might have saved taxpayers a few dollars along with offering folks a great place to fish, cast net, or to simply walk out on.

Jessdmas

I agree with using it to fish from.

Osprey

As long as this bridge took to build they better get started on its replacement now.

Specrig

The old bridge needs to be torn down. Underneth is crumbling.....

(Edited by staff.)

Firemedic3505

1000 feet???? May wanna fact check that one! As always speedy fingers lol.

Core Sounder

the old bridge can still support 18 wheelers so imagine it can support a few fishermen for many years to come. When the old bridge is deemed unsafe for foot traffic he have it removed or simply chain it off to everyone and let it fall in on its on. Would make excellent habitat for lots of critters if left alone. Seems that folks in Dare County are the only politicians that like to leave old bridges for its folks to fish off of and besides it reduces the cost of the total project as well. Then again saving money for taxpayers has never been a high priority in this area and its politicians.

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