ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Residents in part of eastern Rowan County are not happy that a "much traveled" causeway on St. Matthews Church Road will not be repaired any time soon. There is now a petition at Lentz's Store on Stokes Ferry Road demanding that the state take action.
“They said it was going to be repaired," store owner Rick Tutwiler told WBTV. "So everybody just took it for granted that it was going to be repaired.”
Citing safety concerns, the causeway was closed more than a year ago in September. At various times there were efforts made to at least understand what repairs would be needed. In February, the state told DOT that Alcoa, which maintains the water levels, would have to lower the water so that engineers could get a better look at the base of the causeway.
On Wednesday, the NC DOT sent the following statement when asked about the status of the causeway:
Following an investigation made possible by a later-summer drawdown by Alcoa Power Generating Inc. at High Rock Lake, N.C. Department of Transportation geotechnical engineers have found the causeway at St. Matthews Church Road too compromised for commuter travel and it will remain closed to traffic until repairs can be made.
“The foundation of the 85-year old causeway has slowly eroded creating a situation where the road can no longer support the vehicles that travel it everyday.” said NCDOT Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey. “The narrow construction of this causeway has also contributed to the compromised causeway, requiring the widening of St. Matthews Church Road by approximately 20 feet.
Since the investigation was completed, NCDOT engineers have been working to develop repair plans to determine how much the project will cost. NCDOT geotechnical engineers are crafting a plan to minimize the construction time, as local and commuter traffic will be impacted by the road closures. Drivers are encouraged to use Stokes Ferry Road and Bringle Ferry Road to navigate around the closure. A map of the area can be seen here.
“Local public safety agencies including law enforcement, fire, EMS, Emergency Management and Rescue were notified and instituted modified response plans, where needed, due to the closure,” said Rowan County Chief of Emergency Services Frank Thomason regarding the initial closure of St. Matthews Church Road.
“The safety of our students is of utmost importance,” said Rowan-Salisbury Schools Director of Transportation Tim Beck. “We will take measures to get our students to and from school using any other roads available.”
Morgan Elementary School Assistant Principal Barbara Eudy's school is one of several directly impacted by the unsafe causeway. “What would normally take us 5-10 minutes is now taking us 15-20, but parents and students have had time to adjust to extra commute time,” said Eudy. “The bottom line is my busses will not go down that road if it's unsafe and the DOT has made the determination that the road isn't safe for our kids or anyone else.”
“Our first priority is public safety, which means we must endure the temporary inconvenience in order to protect the safety of citizens,” said NCDOT Division 9 Board Member Jake Alexander. “While we are working as quickly as possible to address this situation, we must take every precaution possible to avoid a potential tragedy, which is what we are dealing with at High Rock Lake.”