Transportation officials had expected to open the Slocum Creek bridge over the Labor Day weekend. Then the rains came.
Once again, the bridge’s opening has been delayed, this time with an expected opening of Sept. 20 — if the weather cooperates.
“It’s gone smoothly, but it’s gone slowly,” said Brad McMannen, an assistant resident engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation. “With any construction project, sometimes you have good weather and no problems and sometimes the weather hits you in unforeseen circumstances, so on this one I think every time we get moving something throws us for a loop. We’re thinking if we can get this one section dried out, we should be able to do it in three weeks. We’re trying to get it completed.”
McMannen said recent rains have kept the road subgrade from drying out, preventing paving, and improperly installed drainage pipe would have to be reinstalled, causing the latest delay.
The $2.8 million contract to build the new bridge, tear down the old Church Road Bridge and realign Church Road to intersect the service road on the east side of Slocum Creek has been beset with delays. The bridge was expected to open in May, but utility worked delayed the opening until July. Officials then pushed the opening date to Labor Day.
McMannen said the contractor, Palmetto Construction, has been assessed $38,000 in penalties for the delays.
McMannen said recent rain has resulted in the foundation of the western approach to the new bridge to be too wet to proceed.
“On the west side of the new bridge, we’re trying to get the subgrade dried out so we can get compaction to get our density so that we’re able to put our stone base on,” he said. “Once we do that, we’ll be able to pave it.”
An improper installation of concrete storm water drainage pipe also meant a delay, he said.
“We did a pipe inspection last week and found some damaged pipe from installation, so we’re going to have the contractor come back out and tear some of that pipe back out and replace it because if it’s not repaired now, then in the future there’s going to be a problem,” McMannen said. “That’s got to be repaired before we put in the asphalt and the curb and gutter.
“Most of the damage is on the ends where they put the pipes together. They’re cracked and kind of busted. Those will eventually get worse. Then whatever you’ve got on top will start cracking and getting damaged and then you’ve got an issue.”
As soon as possible, paving will begin, he said. Meanwhile, the Slocum Creek boat ramp remains closed.
“You’ll have asphalt from Tourist Center Drive all the way down across the bridge all the way to the old Wendy’s and then on to the Church road alignment,” McMannen said.
Also yet to be done is placement of 65 feet of guardrail on each side of the new bridge approaches, plus the curb, gutter and sidewalk.
Plans for a grand opening or ribbon cutting have yet to be arranged.