Feb. 22—ELIZABETHTOWN — The plate with the bolts sticking up a bit on the U.S. 701 bridge across the Cape Fear River are not going anywhere anytime soon.
The bump in the road is expected to be there until the bridge is torn down about a year from now, a state Department of Transportation spokesman confirms. The heavy plate, about 1.25 inches thick, is in place "keep the expansion joint in shape," Andrew Barksdale wrote in an email to the Bladen Journal.
DOT has "bump" warning signs on each end of the bridge.
The bridge was inspected on Jan. 13, a process that for a day resulted in alternating one-way traffic for the main north-south artery between Whiteville and Clinton. The bridge resumed normal two-way traffic afterward while the results of the inspection were checked.
On Feb. 2 and 3, crews worked overnight to repair the expansion joint — the metal covering over the space that exists between the segments of the driving deck.
These kinds of joints allow for the normal movement of the concrete deck, which can shift slightly due to temperature changes, traffic going over it and interactions with other bridge structures.
Barksdale said DOT has no plans for other repairs and maintenance to the bridge prior to its demolition, which is expected to be the spring or summer of 2022.
The U.S. 701 crossing of the river was four lanes over twin bridge spans for decades. However, the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in 2018 did extensive damage when tons of debris eventually lodged against the supporting structure in the water. The decision was made to replace the bridges, and the northbound span has already been demolished.
A new single-deck bridge is expected to be fully operational in 2024, with a portion handling traffic next year while the southbound span is torn down.
U.S. 701 is one of only three places to cross the Cape Fear, which runs more than 50 miles through the heart of the county. Each of the others are on the far northern and southern ends of the county just off N.C. 87.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.