No quick fix for St. Matthews Church Road causeway

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - A representative from the Department of Transportation says it may be a year before its experts can even begin to determine how to fix the causeway on St. Matthews Church Road in eastern Rowan County.

A crack in the road, described by the official as a "slope failure" developed last summer, prompting DOT to close the road in September.

Residents say the detour is a long inconvenience, and local emergency officials told WBTV that the road closure is causing delays in response times.

"This road seems to have been closed for six months now," said local resident Doug Doreen.     "There's also an EMS station up the road, there's no other one for this part of the county, so now it's taking three four times as long as paramedics to get to a call."

Rowan County EMS Director Frank Thomason acknowledged there is a delay for EMS units now.

Thomason said that the ambulance based at the station on the corner of St. Matthews Church Road and Stokes Ferry Road must now travel Agner Road or one of the other side roads in order to get to Bringle Ferry Road.

Thomason described other delays, such as those for firefighters and sheriff's deputies as "minimal."

On Monday DOT officials met with representatives of Alcoa.  Alcoa owns and manages the lake.

DOT told WBTV that the plan had been for the lake levels to drop over the winter so that state engineers could see what was causing the slope failure and determine how to fix it, but the rain and snow that came this season have kept the lake levels higher than usual for this time of the year, preventing any inspection.

Amanda Perry with DOT told WBTV that they understand the frustration of residents, but that safety is the top priority.

"Reopening a road that isn't safe just isn't an option," Perry said on Wednesday.  "It may be a big problem that requires a big fix."

Perry said that the state is moving as quickly as it can, but that now it would likely have to wait until next winter.

Divers have attempted to get a look under the water at the causeway, but Perry said that they weren't really able to determine what the problem is that is causing the failure on the top side.

On Monday the DOT requested that Alcoa drop the lake levels, and that is normally a process that can take a year or longer.