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New Davie County Bridge Over I-40 to Ease Area Traffic Woes

Tue March 24, 2009 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

One of North Carolina’s fastest growing suburban areas is the northeastern end of Davie County, located only 10 mi. (16 km) southwest of Winston-Salem. Since the 1990s, the area has seen the growth of several major new-home developments as more people have chosen to live in the country and commute across the Yadkin River into Winston-Salem via Interstate 40.

Consequently, with the rapid increase in eastern Davie’s population, traffic through the area also has multiplied. Nowhere is that more evident than at I-40’s intersection with NC 801, the area’s major north-south thoroughfare. The amount of traffic during the morning and afternoon commute times, as well as around lunchtime, is much heavier than it was just a few short years ago.

To ease those traffic concerns, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) decided in 2007 to replace the structurally deficient, 50-year-old two-lane bridge that takes NC 801 traffic over I-40 with a new seven-lane, 234-ft. (71 m) long structure.

In addition, the approaches to the bridge on NC 801 were expanded and the on- and off-ramps from I-40 to NC 801 were either relocated or rehabilitated. The entire project will cost about $10.2 million.

Work began at the site in late October 2007 with the construction of the first third of the new bridge, according to Wright Archer, the NCDOT’s resident engineer on the project. The contract for the general contracting went to the Thompson-Arthur Division of APAC-Atlantic Inc., based in Greensboro. Under the supervision of Mike Ingle, the project manager for Thompson-Arthur, the firm is responsible for the bridge construction and the paving.

Almost a year and a half later, two-lane traffic is moving over the new section of the bridge, the old bridge has been completely removed and work is progressing on the final two-thirds of the new structure. In addition, new ramps have been built to take westbound I-40 traffic on and off NC 801 and a portion of the approaches to the intersection have been newly paved.

Ingle said that about 70 percent of the bridge still has to be built, but that 80 percent of the grading work has been finished, due to APAC-Atlantic subcontractor Dixie Grading & Equipment in Wilkesboro. As many as 10 people worked on the grading for Dixie, he said.

Ingle predicted that the new bridge will have cars streaming over it by Sept. 1, 2009, and the entire project will be completed by the Nov. 1.

“It is going to be a huge bridge at 105 feet wide, with 92 feet of clear roadway and sidewalks on each side,” he said. “But it really has to be that big to handle all the traffic and growth that is going on in that area. There will be two thru lanes going each way [north and south] and two turn lanes for traffic going east toward Winston-Salem.”

In preparation for the bridgework last year, Ingle’s crews built a new off-ramp coming from westbound I-40 that directed traffic under the NC 801 bridge and looped back to 801. At the same time, the old westbound on-ramp from NC 801 onto I-40 was closed and a new on-ramp relocated several hundred feet to the north. This funneled cars away from the work zone and allowed the old westbound I-40 off-ramp onto NC 801 to be closed so that the new bridge could be built.

With the first new section of the bridge finished, that last off-ramp was rehabbed and reopened to direct traffic northbound on NC 801 toward Farmington.

The two ramps on the south side of the bridge, which carry eastbound I-40 traffic, have remained open to cars and trucks. Southbound traffic takes commuters to the bedroom communities of Bermuda Run and Advance.

The only time the area has been closed to traffic was when the old NC 801 bridge was demolished early last year. As traffic was too heavy during the day, closures only happened between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and then for only a few nights, Archer said.

He estimated the entire project to be about 65 percent complete.

“I would say that we are ahead of schedule, although the winter weather has slowed us down somewhat,” Archer said. “We are in good shape, though, because we did most of our earthwork prior to the winter and we were able to shift traffic onto the new structure before Christmas. We can easily work on the second phase of the bridgework throughout the winter.”

Most of the project is currently aimed at erecting the other two-thirds of the bridge. Crews are driving piles on either side of I-40, as well as for the support structure in the median of the interstate. Ingle has two bridge crews, with a total of 12 workers, working on the structure.

“We are getting ready to drive piles in the median and there are three footings there with 11 piles per footing,” Ingle said in mid-February. “Those piles are going about 80 feet deep. That will take the longest to complete. Recently we were driving piles on the end-bent on the south end of the bridge and after the median work, we will move to the north side.”

APAC-Atlantic is using a Birminghammer 3505 pile driver on the job, a machine that the firm has owned for years.

Also onsite, APAC-Atlantic has an 80-ton (73 t) Link-Belt 138 HSL lattice crawler crane to help with the pile driving and for later use in setting the 13 steel girders that will make up the last portion of the bridge, a 60-ton (54 t) American 5299 crane and an all-purpose Grove RT-500 rough-terrain crane, a favorite of Ingle’s.

“It’s really the handiest thing out there,” he said. “I like it because it’s mobile and small — only a 35-ton machine — but it can pour concrete, handle and load materials, move them where they need to be — a real workhorse.”

Ingle hopes to be erecting the bridge’s structural steel by May and working on the road deck shortly after that. That means a lot of paving for APAC-Atlantic crews during the dog days of summer. At that point, the company will bring in its various Caterpillar dozers and Ingersoll Rand rollers, as well as Blaw Knox pavers and Roadtec pavers and shuttle buggies to do the job.

Also in the late spring or early summer, one lane of I-40 may be closed for a week as crews work to mill out the highway shoulders and build a new deceleration lane for the I-40 off-ramp loop.

Once all seven lanes of the finished bridge are open to traffic, APAC-Atlantic has another 60 days of work ahead of it putting in the concrete median between the opposing lanes and making sure new traffic signals and striping is in place.

But so far, the project has run smoothly with no accidents and no delays, Ingle said. He expects the new bridge and its approaches to be able to handle the area’s brisk development and growing traffic for decades to come. CEG

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