Bridge is OUT!

Bridge is OUT!

We’ve all seen the signs in cartoons and comedies where signs go up saying “Bridge Out Ahead,” but in the case of the Alligator River Bridge on Rt. 64 on the way to the Outer Banks in Dare County it is no laughing matter for the next couple of weeks.

This past Tuesday, April 2nd the bridge that links the mainland to Dare County via U.S. Rt. 64 closed for a period of at least two weeks while the center draw on the bridge is repaired.  The bridge is scheduled to be re-opened at 12:01 PM on Sunday, April 14th.

View of bridge from Bridge’s Pilot House

Alternate routes from the west to the Outer Banks include Rt. 17 through Elizabeth City to Rt. 158 which will take traffic to the north of the bridge.   Another alternate route to the Outer Banks is to turn on to Rt. 94 South in Columbia, NC to Rt. 264 towards Manteo.  The southern alternate route will add approximately 90 miles to the trip to the Outer Banks.

Center Of Swing Span
The Center draw of the Alligator River Bridge

The bridge, originally built in 1960 is a two-laned center pivot draw bridge that sees heavy water traffic as it is part of the Intercoastal Waterway.  The bridge opens an average of 500 times in a one month period to allow boats to pass safely North and South.   During the construction process the draw of the bridge will remain in the open position to allow boats to pass safely.

The project is an engineer’s dream.  The work requires the center draw to be raised by 6 inches to allow crews to remove the center pivot, replace it and then put the draw back as it was.  The process of repair of the bridge sounds simple, but it is a highly orchestrated and complex process.  Here are the steps of the project:
-Swing bridge to open position.
-Jack the bridge up and and support it on both ends
-Pull the pivot out of the center.
-Replace the pivot.
-Replace all balance wheels on the pivot area.
-Replace gears and shafts.
-Lower the bridge onto the new pivot and balance wheels.
-Close the bridge.

Center Pivot
Center pivot of draw bridge

Due to the tremendous number of openings each year the gears, and most mechanical components of the bridge are worn.  The purpose of this project is to perform rehabilitation work on the components in hopes of preventing future closures of the bridge.

For updates go to this link to the Department of Transportation site that has been established for this project.

The work on this project is being done by PCL Construction of Tampa, Florida at a cost of $498,500.  There is a penalty of $300 per hour for each hour past noon on April 14th that the project is due to be completed by and the bridge re-opened.  At the same time there is a $300 bonus per hour for any time that the bridge is opened before the hard deadline of noon, April 14th.

Keep in mind while the U.S. Rt. 64 access to the Outer Banks will be hampered by this project the majority of traffic that comes to the Outer Banks arrives via U.S. Rt. 158 and across the Wright Memorial Bridge in Kitty Hawk.  There is no affect expected on the Rt. 158 entry to the Outer Banks by this project.

All the best from the beach!

By Tim Cafferty, President, Outer Banks Blue Realty Services

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