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DOT to repair U.S. 17 bridge at Washington

By Staff
Project includes turntable work, deck replacement
By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
Planned repairs to the U.S. Highway 17 bridge across the Pamlico-Tar River at Washington should be under way some time in October and should be done by May 15.
That’s the timetable Washington officials and N.C. Department of Transportation leaders are counting on when it comes to repairing the bridge. Those repairs were authorized by the state Board of Transportation. Before the bridge can be repaired, DOT personnel will have to determine how the mechanism that opens and closes the bridge will be rebuilt. Along with rebuilding that mechanism, there is other repair work the bridge requires.
The deck is the metal segment of the bridge that swings open to allow boats to travel either up or down the river.
Smith said “structural issues” with the bridge’s turntable, the mechanism that opens and closes the bridge, will require it to be rebuilt, if not replaced by another mechanism to open and close the bridge. DOT officials aren’t sure what’s causing the problems with the turntable, Smith said.
The entire swing part of the bridge will be repainted. The bridge will receive chamfer modifications to correct a sagging problem that occurs during the summer. A chamfer is a beveled edge connecting two surfaces.
The bridge was built in 1962, Holderman said.
In a memorandum to the mayor and City Council, Smith said there was debate about whether to wait until the U.S. 17 bypass project — which includes a new bridge across the river — is finished before the existing bridge is repaired. DOT officials determined the existing bridge is in a too-advanced state of deterioration to wait for the bypass to be completed before beginning repairs.
Holderman confirmed that DOT wants to award a contract for the bridge repairs by the end of September, with a contractor beginning work on the bridge mechanism in October. A “pre-bid” meeting for contractors interested in the project has been set for Aug. 23 at DOT’s division office in Greenville, Holderman said.
Smith said it’s likely he and Allen Lewis, the city’s public works director, will attend that meeting.
The Coast Guard, which has given its approval for the project, will attend preconstruction meetings regarding the project. The Coast Guard is involved because the bridge crosses navigable waters over which the Coast Guard has some control.
Holderman acknowledged that plans call for the repairs to be completed by the middle of next May to avoid disrupting festivals and other events in downtown Washington and along the city’s waterfront.
While it is being repaired, the bridge will not be opened to boat traffic. Vehicular traffic over the bridge will be maintained by using a two-lane, two-way traffic pattern instead of the four-lane, two-way pattern now in use.
Replacing the deck will require removing a two-lane segment of the deck while the remaining two-lane segment is used by vehicles. After the first segment of the new galvanized steel deck is installed, it will be used by vehicles while the remaining old deck is replaced. Once all of the new deck is in place, the normal traffic pattern for the bridge will resume.
Repairs to areas under the deck also will be performed. While those areas are being repaired, the underside of the bridge will be enclosed to prevent material and other items from entering the river, according to Smith’s memorandum.
The reduced clearance will be temporary, in place only during the repair work, he said.
Because there will be no in-water work related to the repairs, the project will not be affected by regulations in place to protect fish nurseries in the river. Because the river is home to several fish nurseries, the state has restricted and regulated some in-water activities that could potentially harm them.