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From atop the new I-85 Yadkin River Veterans Memorial South bridge over the Yadkin River near Salisbury,NC Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata announced Thursday that the new bridge will open to traffic for the first time late Friday, March 8.
The four-lane bridge will provide motorists with a safer, more efficient way to travel between Charlotte and the Triad.
"We're proud to bring the citizens of this region what they've wanted for many years – a modern bridge that can easily accommodate the 60,000 vehicles that travel through the area each day," said Secretary Tata. "By improving critical interstate commerce routes like I-85, we can better meet Gov. Pat McCrory's vision to leverage our transportation assets to stimulate economic growth and create and maintain jobs."
Crews will begin moving traffic onto the new I-85 South bridge, starting around 10 p.m. Friday. By 6 a.m. Saturday, March 9, all four lanes of the bridge will be open.
The new I-85 South bridge replaces a bridge, which was built in 1955 and no longer met the needs of today's drivers. It was narrow and had virtually no shoulders. When accidents occurred or vehicles broke down, drivers had nowhere to move their cars, triggering significant traffic congestion and making it difficult for emergency crews to respond quickly.
The new I-85 South bridge is four lanes wide – twice as wide as the old bridge. It also has 12-foot-wide shoulders where drivers can pull off when necessary. Based on these features, it will:
„X Reduce congestion; „X Improve safety; and „X Extend the life of the local transportation network.
The combined impact of those benefits will foster economic growth. It will make it easier for companies to transport their goods to market and employees to reach their jobs on time. It will also help entice businesses already located in the region to expand their facilities, while encouraging new corporations to call North Carolina home.
The new I-85 South bridge is 0.55 miles long and 72 feet wide. Crews with contractor Flatiron-Lane, a Joint Venture built it in nine months, using 38,000 tons of concrete and 1,800 tons of reinforced steel.
The new I-85 South and North bridges are officially known as the Yadkin River Veterans Memorial Bridge. Secretary Tata thanked the people of Rowan and Davidson counties who petitioned for the bridge name.
"May the Yadkin River Veterans Memorial Bridge be a lasting tribute to their sacrifice and our freedom," Tata said.
The construction of the new I-85 bridges is part of the I-85 Corridor Improvement Project, the state's top mobility project. Phase one of the project involves widening 3.3 miles of I-85 from just north of Long Ferry Road (Exit 81) to just north of N.C. 150, reconstructing the N.C. 150 interchange and replacing eight bridges, including the Yadkin River Bridge. Substantial completion is set for April 15.
Phase two of the project extends the widening 3.8 miles from just north of N.C. 150 to just north of the I-85 Business split and includes reconstructing the Belmont Road interchange. Phase two is scheduled to be complete in late summer.