NCDOT works to clear roads of Irene debris

Published 12:32 am Thursday, September 1, 2011

The N.C. Department of Transportation has mobilized around 2,000 of its employees to help make state roads passable in the wake of Hurricane Irene, Gene Conti, the state’s transportation secretary said.

Included in that scope of work are the ferry landings operated by the N.C. Ferry Division, Conti said.

Gene Conti

The bridge to the Aurora ferry landing was badly damaged and wasn’t open at last report.

“I can’t give you a precise schedule, but we’ll be addressing those kinds of things as quickly as possible to make sure we can keep those services available,” Conti said during a stop in Washington.

He was asked whether the cost of this storm cleanup would present budgetary problems for DOT.

“We have a certain amount budgeted for (cleanup),” he said. “We used a lot of that for snow removal.”

DOT also has the ability to tap into a federal emergency fund for events like hurricanes, he said.

“We’ll be getting emergency relief from that fund,” he commented.

Conti was unsure how many of the state’s main roads were blocked at the peak of the storm.

As of Tuesday, all primary roads on the north side of the Pamlico River were open, and all primary roads on the south side also were open, though some were plagued by power lines that had been brought down by trees.

“The biggest challenge we have in eastern North Carolina right now is the two major breaches we have on N.C. Highway 12 on the Outer Banks,” Conti said, adding officials were developing a plan for getting that road open.

Conti visited Beaufort County as part of a tour arranged to meet with local officials and DOT employees.

On his stop in Washington, he was accompanied by Hugh Overholt, a New Bern member of the N.C. Board of Transportation.

Other state and federal officials have visited Beaufort County this week to get a firsthand look at the hand Irene dealt the east.

Among those officials were Gov. Beverly Perdue, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis, N.C. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield and state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.