U.S. 17 Business bridge replacement on schedule

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, April 28, 2022

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Construction crews demolished the old bridge in March. (Ray Midgett/for the Daily News)

Five months down, 13 to go.

As Eastern North Carolina motorists continue to adapt to taking a longer route to points south of Washington, they might take some comfort in knowing that the project to replace the U.S. 17 Business bridge is slightly ahead of schedule.

Drivers first noticed orange barrels along the route back in July as the project started. State Department of Transportation officials closed the 81-year old structure right after Thanksgiving so demolition could begin.

“The bridge was unsafe structurally and absolutely needed to be replaced,” Sarah Lentine, DOT Resident Engineer for Construction, said.

“We’ve demolished the old bridge and driven the pilings for the new one on the Chocowinity side. We’ve moved the crane to the Washington side to start over there.”

Crews are building the structure higher to accommodate the Norfolk-Southern railroad that runs under the bridge.

“Anytime you collaborate, it adds another layer,” Lentine said. “We had a couple of early hiccups with railroad rules and permits since we were working within their right of way. We’ve figured it out and things are going well now. The weather has also helped us stay on a consistent track. We measure progress every month and are a few days ahead at this point. We hope to stay that way as the project proceeds.”

There are actually two projects going on at the same time as the smaller, shorter drawbridge over the Pamlico River starting at Main Street in Washington is also being extensively repaired. Traffic is down to one lane in each direction, but there’s less negative impact because the other bridge is closed and the detour from Highway 264 to U.S. 17 on the west side of Washington has been in place since November.

“We are repairing cracks under the bridge, replacing the railings and treating the surface for a smoother ride,” Lentine said. “It made sense to do both at the same time. Both bridges definitely needed the work and they will be vastly improved when we are finished. We appreciate everyone’s patience while we continue.”

Lentine said the project is still on track to be completed in May of 2023.