LAKE RHODHISS, NC (WBTV) - A major bridge that links Burke and Caldwell Counties over the Catawba River and Lake Rhodhiss will still be shut down this year, says the Department of Transportation (DOT), but not for as long as first expected.
Castle Bridge, which was built in 1961, has issues with rust in the steel supports under the pavement. Officials say years of winter salt making its way into the support beams has caused deterioration to accelerate in recent years.
It has gotten to the point, officials say, that the load rating for the bridge was cut in half a few weeks ago. Many loaded tractor trailers will now not be allowed to cross it. The highway patrol will be enforcing that.
Official say if repairs are not done, most other trucks, buses, and even emergency vehicles will not be able to cross.
The project to fix the bridge will involve removing all the steel beams, pavement, and concrete rails. The concrete support structures going into the water are still structurally sound, say officials, and will be fine for the project.
Originally, officials thought the work could take up to 18 months. Now, they believe the work can be accomplished in just eight months.
Local businesses say any shut down will hurt, but they are glad the timetable has been shortened. Bids will go out this summer with construction starting sometime this fall.
A gas line will have to be moved before the bridge work can begin. Incentives will be offered to the contractor taking the job if the project can be completed in under eight months. Officials estimate the repairs will cost $6 million.
A brand new bridge was considered, but officials deemed it too costly and said it would take at least three years to go from the design stage to completion.
DOT believes the repairs that are planned will keep the bridge structurally sound for at least another half a century.