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Muddy Creek Bridge Forms Along U.S. 421

Tue February 07, 2012 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson


The $8.1 million project will not only replace the old bridges, each built in 1958, but also will widen the roadway considerably and expand the ramps leading to and from Peacehaven Road, just east of Muddy Creek.
The $8.1 million project will not only replace the old bridges, each built in 1958, but also will widen the roadway considerably and expand the ramps leading to and from Peacehaven Road, just east of Muddy Creek.
The $8.1 million project will not only replace the old bridges, each built in 1958, but also will widen the roadway considerably and expand the ramps leading to and from Peacehaven Road, just east of Muddy Creek. Eventually, each set of bridges — one to carry north-bound traffic and one to carry south-bound traffic —  will be joined to make two wide overpasses. A variety of equipment has been used on the Muddy Creek project, including both a Link-Belt and a Kobelco crane to lift and place sections of the bridges.

The more than two-year effort to replace the old bridges that carry U.S. Highway 421 traffic over Muddy Creek in Winston-Salem should be finished in late May, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

Begun in January 2010, the Muddy Creek bridge project was designed to replace two older spans that had been carrying up to 51,000 cars per day for decades. The crossing is located on the western edge of Winston-Salem between the highway’s intersections with Peacehaven Road and Lewisville-Clemmons Road.

Traffic across Muddy Creek has increased in recent years as more and more people have chosen to live in the Lewisville/Clemmons area of western Forsyth County and commute into Winston-Salem.

In addition, with U.S. 421 North and South now a four-lane road throughout all of Yadkin, Wilkes and Watauga counties to the west, travelers from the eastern half of the state are finding the route easier to drive on trips to the mountains.

Weather Always a Concern

Relatively mild winter weather had helped construction crews make significant progress on the bridge and road work in the last few months until wet and chilly conditions in late January slowed things down, said NCDOT engineer Wright Archer.

“We are now in the concrete bridge-deck phase, so it would really have to dry out quite a bit before we do any more,” Wright said on Jan. 23. “It really needs to be drier and a little warmer so that we can get on that bridge-deck work, then we are hoping to work on the shoulders and the final asphalt work, all of which is weather dependent.”

The project was initially supposed to be completed last fall, but ran into a six-month delay when crews unexpectedly found hard rock in the ground when they were ready to put in the bridges’ supports.

Old Spans Lasted More Than 50 Years

The $8.1 million project will not only replace the old bridges, each built in 1958, but also will widen the roadway considerably and expand the ramps leading to and from Peacehaven Road, just east of Muddy Creek. Wider shoulders also will be finished in the coming weeks.

Smith-Rowe LLC, a Mt. Airy-based contractor, is in charge of working on the project.

When work began two years ago, crews from Smith-Rowe first built new 200-ft.-long (61 m) bridges on the outside of the existing bridges that continued to carry traffic. When that was finished, traffic was then re-routed onto them and the more than 50-year-old spans were demolished. Once that was completed, workmen began erecting the second set of new bridges over the footprints of the old overpasses. Eventually, each set of bridges — one to carry north-bound traffic and one to carry south-bound traffic — will be joined to make two wide overpasses.

Each new bridge section utilizes pre-cast concrete girders, the last of which was installed in December.

“Right now, obviously, the wet weather has us stopped, but we are waiting to start on some approach slabs, the reinforced bridge approaches, and we have another section of bridge deck to pour, which we hope to do in the next two or three weeks, if we have decent weather,” Archer added. “Then we will really be waiting on the warmer weather so that we can pave.”

Archer said that on a slow day, only five or six workmen can usually be found working at the site, but on days when a bridge concrete pour was happening, 15 or more people may have worked at the site.

A variety of equipment has been used on the Muddy Creek project, including both a Link-Belt and a Kobelco crane to lift and place sections of the bridges.

Unsafe at Any Speed

The new overpasses across Muddy Creek were initially planned to be replaced as part of the much larger Northern Beltway project, an ambitious effort to build a freeway loop around Winston-Salem. The 30-mi. (48 km) long route has been in the planning stages since 1999, but lawsuits and budget problems have delayed the effort indefinitely.

However, the NCDOT decided in 2009 not to wait for the Northern Beltway issues to get resolved and to go ahead and replace the Muddy Creek bridges as they were deemed to be unsafe for traffic.