Believe it if you will, but the long-delayed new bridge over Slocum Creek is scheduled to open on Monday.
The bridge had been set to open on Friday with an official ribbon-cutting ceremony but Wednesday’s rain delayed work on the bridge.
“The weather has kind of pushed us back,” said Brad McMannen, engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation. “We can’t pave with the road wet.”
McMannen said the contractor would likely spend all day Friday pouring the final coat of asphalt.
Built by Palmetto Construction, a South Carolina firm, the 325-foot bridge is part of a $2.8 million contract that included demolition of the old Church Road Bridge and reconfiguration of a portion of the road. The project was originally supposed to be finished in May, but a late start, weather delays and subcontractor issues have caused seven months in delays. According to NCDOT, Palmetto Construction has been assessed $98,400 in fines that will be subtracted from the contractor’s original bid price.
In the last week, workers have been paving, installing guardrail, smoothing slopes, installing road striping and going through a list in preparation for final inspection.
Havelock Commissioner Danny Walsh said planning for removal of the old bridge and construction of a new span next to U.S. 70 goes back to the 1970s when he was a member of the Havelock Planning Board.
“I waited over 40 years for this moment,” said Walsh. “I’ll probably be the proudest papa of a baby in this town.
“Just the bridge by itself is fantastic but the fact that we were able to tie it to the waterfront park is a bonus. It will bring a lot of traffic for a lot of the businesses that are there. The original concept was to get the people off 70 using the access roads that we already have available.”
The new bridge will be an important connector for businesses on either side of the creek, Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders said..
“It’s a win, win, win as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “The businesses along that road have suffered long enough, and hopefully they will benefit from this increased traffic.”
JJ’s Texas BBQ, located on the service road just a few hundred yards from the bridge, opened in the spring when the span was supposed to be open. Co-owner John Price said he had been looking forward to the new bridge.
“I think it’s going to be great for business. I think it’s going to be fantastic,” he said. “I think having traffic flow from that side of town, instead of having people get off, and have to go around on the highway will be an improvement. I think having the service road open from one end of the town will make for easy access, not just for my business but for all the businesses.”
Havelock City Planner Katrina Marshall called the bridge’s opening a “good thing.”
“It’s going to open up that service road to businesses along there and make it safer for drivers who won’t have to go back onto the main road,” she said.
The now-demolished Church Road Bridge was built in 1924. Built when the majority of cars on the road were Ford Model Ts, it was narrow and was the second oldest of 101 bridges in Craven County. It had been on the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan for replacement in 2015, but Havelock leaders, with the help of area congressional legislators, worked to persuade DOT officials to move up the project.
The sticking point was that the span was a federal bridge being replaced with state funds.
“Everybody was trying to complete the same project,” Walsh said. “In the end, it didn’t matter who got credit. It got done. It’s a good thing for everybody.”