Yadkin River Bridge Project Close to Completion
With nearly half of the freeway currently open, crews on the Yadkin River Bridge project are rounding the corner and heading into the home stretch—about six months from completion of the major parts of the project, on time and on-budget.
The project improves 3.5 miles of I-85 from two lanes in each direction to four lanes and adds two new main bridges, both about half a mile long.
“One of the prime reasons we’re here is I-85 runs across the Yadkin River, and the existing bridge built in 1955 is very small, narrow and built on a curve,” explains project manager Adam Mathews. “There are no shoulders, and I believe it was on the federal list of the top-10 most dangerous bridges in America. It’s pretty nasty, there’s no doubt about it.”
The project overcame several challenges, including building a six-million-pound trestle—Flatiron’s longest trestle to date at nearly a half mile long—over stringently monitored wetland areas and an active railroad line that sees up to 80 trains passing through each day en route to the east coast.
“One of the big challenges we had was to set 200-foot long, 10-foot deep steel girders over the railroad in a four-hour window once a week,” Adam explains. “We had 14 of these things to set, so that was quite the planning operation. The guys here did an excellent job; we never once had a late opening for the railroad.”
More impressive yet is the fact that crews started out setting one girder in that four-hour window and then refined the process to double their efforts, setting two girders in an identical same four hour time span.
“They did a tremendous job,” adds Adam.
Crews reached two major milestones in the last six months. In May, crews completed the first half of the northbound lanes so traffic could be switched in order to allow completion on the other half. Southbound traffic was put onto the new lanes, giving crews access to the southbound work. This first major traffic switch even prompted a project visit from North Carolina governor Bev Perdue.
The second milestone was accomplished on the first day of August, when crews took southbound traffic off the existing road and shifted it temporarily onto the new northbound lanes.
Adam explains the significance of this milestone: “Now motorists are finally off those dangerous bridges. This event didn’t get much fanfare, but really it should have because the whole reason we’re here is to get traffic off those old bridges—and sure enough, we did just that.
“I think everybody says this, but the best part of the project truly has been the people building it,” Adam continues. “As a team we have clicked very well. We all enjoy what we do and we all do it well, so that’s basically why this project is a success. It goes all the way down to the guys in the field.”