By Sam Walker
The contractor working to smooth out the ride on the westbound Wright Memorial Bridge still plans to reopen the span in less than two weeks.
“As of today, it is still the contractor’s goal to have the bridge open to traffic by May 15th,” John Abel, Jr., North Carolina Department of Transportation’s bridge program manager for Division 1, said Thursday in an email.
Since late September, G.A. & F.C. Wagman Inc. of York, Pa. has been using a special process to grind down the original bridge deck and place a layer of latex-modfied concrete on the road surface.
More than half of the bridge that carries U.S. 158 west between Kitty Hawk and Point Harbor has nearly been completed.
“There is still a lot of work that needs to be performed prior to the date but it is still their plan to have it open by the 15th,” said Abel.
The worse-than-expected weather this past winter led to the resurfacing project not being finished as originally planned.
The bridge will reopen to traffic for the summer, then close again sometime after Labor Day so that the $6.3 million project can be completed.
Under the original contract, the NCDOT would levy an at least $1,000 a day for each day the bridge remained closed after May 23.
When the westbound bridge was built in 1995, the supports of the deck did not bend as expected after the concrete road deck was poured on top.
The road deck between each bent, which is the combination of pilings that supports the bridge, had a more pronounced “hump” causing the bouncy ride over the bridge.
A similar issue developed on other bridges built around the same time in the region, including the Washington Baum Bridge over Roanoke Sound, but not to the severity as on the Wright Memorial Bridge.
With only one lane in each direction available on the normally eastbound span, traffic delays developed during several weekends in April due to disabled vehicles, accidents and high vehicle volume.
Traffic backups plagued the first two weekends after the span closed in the fall.