Currituck County, N.C. (WTKR) – Unfinished work on the Wright Memorial Bridge won’t delay re-opening the span next month, NCDOT officials say.
The westbound span closed to traffic in mid-September for a massive resurfacing project to smooth out a bumpy ride.
“We’re trying to extend the life of the structure itself and right now the bridge has an oscillation on it – as you ride across it goes up and down and that puts undue stress on the structure,” North Carolina Department of Transportation Division 1 Bridge Program Manager John Abel, Jr. told NewsChannel 3′s Todd Corillo.
The resurfacing project should extend the lifetime of the span to 60-70 years.
“If it had stayed in its current condition, we might have only been looking at 45 to 50 years,” Abel commented.
Under the contract for the work, the westbound span of the bridge is required to reopen by May 15th, ahead of the busy summer tourism season on the Outer Banks.
“The department does have a liquidated damages on the project of $5,000 a day if he does not have it open by the 15th,” Abel stated.
However, unusually harsh weather conditions have limited how much work has been performed this winter, due in part to strict requirements for the materials being used.
“The latex modified concrete can only be placed when temperatures are above 50 degrees, has to be less than 85 degrees and wind speeds have to be less than 10 miles per hour,” Abel explained.
“Typically, a winter down here would allow the contractor to work the majority of the wintertime, but of course this was not a typical winter for us,” he continued.
Abel estimates that about 60% of the work on the bridge is complete.
He says it will re-open to traffic by May 15th, before closing again in September to allow the remaining work to be completed.
Abel also said that even though work will be suspended during the summer months, the westbound span will still be safe for drivers.
“Yes, it will be safe. There will be a section of the bridge that will be a milled surface that you will ride on but we’ve had that looked at,” Abel explained.
When the bridge closes again in September, the hope is to have all the work finished by December, however, Abel cautions that could change based on weather.