N.C. 16 section to close

A heavily traveled patch of a Conover highway will shut down next week and remain closed nearly eight months.

On Wednesday, N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) workers are expected to close a short section of N.C. 16 Business and begin demolition and replacement of an old bridge over Interstate 40.

The bridge, built in 1957, has been deemed both functionally obsolete and structurally deficient.

According to NCDOT, the current bridge is safe but no longer meets current design standards for width, shoulders or rails.

A new bridge, which will accommodate larger vehicles, is expected to be completed by Nov. 15.

NCDOT expects to begin demolition of the current bridge the week of March 19, said Brian Withers, NCDOT assistant resident engineer.

"They'll likely start some saw-cutting first that won't affect the structural ability of the bridge," Withers said.

During replacement work, residential traffic will take detours along County Home Road and 10th Street NW to avoid the closed section of N.C. 16.

NCDOT is working on a detour route for commercial trucks that will likely utilize Thornburg Drive and Rock Barn Road, Withers said, because the gradient of the roadway on 10th Street NW is not conducive to large-truck travel.

NCDOT previously planned to close lanes on I-40 during bridge replacement work, but those plans have been altered, Withers said.

Now, NCDOT plans to completely close I-40 between exits 130-132 some nights during bridge work and occasionally close a lane at a time during daytime construction of the new bridge. A detour around exits 130-132 will mirror a route used during recent resurfacing work on I-40, Withers said.

"It will probably be just one closing, east or west, at one time," he said. "We'll probably start doing some of that for demolition of the bridge the week after the 14th. We'll probably have Catawba County officers at night at the interstate ramps in case anyone's got questions, and there will be message boards up on I-40."

In February, NCDOT awarded a $3.1 million contract for the bridge replacement project to Blythe Development Co., of Charlotte.

Up-to-date information
For updated information on N.C. 16 Business and I-40 travel, visit the NCDOT's Travel Information Management System online at tims.ncdot.gov/tims/.

Down the road
Multiple transportation, highway and planning organizations are also discussing the future replacement of the U.S. 321 bridge over Lake Hickory at the Catawba-Burke-Caldwell counties line, as part of plans to widen the highway from Hickory to Lenoir.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization expects to study replacement plan options for several years, and work on a new three-lane bridge is expected about a decade down the road.

Federal Highway Administration officials want to build a new bridge twice as long as the current structure and cross a set of railroad tracks on the Catawba County side.

NCDOT officials say they expect that extra bridge length to double the cost of the project.

Specific plans for the project have not yet been finalized.