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DOT prepares to blow the bridge

By Staff
Residents approve, despite six mile detour
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
CHOCOWINITY—Louise Furman, a resident of Chocowinity, used to be less than a minute’s drive from town and U.S. Highway 17. When the N.C. Department of Transportation demolishes the N.C. Highway 33 bridge over the Norfolk-Southern Railroad, that same drive will take almost 10 minutes.
Despite the inconvenience, she feels replacing the bridge is a good thing.
Furman, also a town commissioner, and other residents attended an informational session with DOT representatives at Southside High School Tuesday night to discuss plans to replace their aged and ailing bridge. They were also alerted to the six-mile detour, which DOT illustrations at the meeting called the “official designated path” to stay on the highway without using the bridge.
The bridge, located less than half a mile west of where Highway 33 intersects Highway 17 in Chocowinity, is traveled by an average 8,200 vehicles per day and Beaufort County school buses cross it from four to eight times per day, according to information distributed at the informational session.
Construction is expected to begin in 2011, after studies are conducted to identify possible environmental and social impacts of the project. The bridge should then be completed within a year and a half, Stephen Greene, DOT project manager, said.
The bridge itself is not DOT’s only concern.
Poor drainage from the 30-foot elevated roadway consistently causes flooding in nearby neighborhoods as water flows down the built-up approaches to the bridge itself. The berms on which those approaches are laid also have a history of sliding into the way of nearby roads.
Thad Duncan, with the DOT roadway-design unit, assured Furman that the drainage problems with the bridge would be corrected when it is replaced.