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After making emergency repairs throughout the night, the N.C. Department of Transportation reopened the U.S. 701 Bridge over the Cape Fear River on Sunday morning.

Heavy rainfall had eroded soil from underneath a concrete column and cap and wing wall that are on the south riverbank of the bridge. The department closed it at 7 p.m. Saturday as a precaution.

With a combination of NCDOT employees and contract crews, the department worked overnight Saturday to fill and pack the void with clay and sand, then poured concrete over the former void to stabilize the bridge’s substructures.

“We pushed through the night and got everything to come together with our emergency contractors and suppliers to get this bridge reopened sooner than expected,” said Nick Garrell, the department’s Bladen County maintenance engineer.

The bridge, which is on the outskirts of Elizabethtown, reopened around 10 a.m. Sunday, or two days earlier than projected. The detour was about 30 miles.

“This turnaround was just amazing,” the Division 6 Engineer Drew Cox said. “This bridge is a critical corridor to this part of the county.”

Garrell initially thought they would need to build a cofferdam – a step that would have added a day or two of work. But they realized after starting the repairs they could stabilize the eroded area without diverting the river water.

The departmental employees involved included the Whiteville resident engineer’s office, traffic services, Bladen County maintenance and the division’s bridge maintenance shop. Two local suppliers and law enforcement and fire and rescue also assisted.

According to the National Weather Service station at Curtis L. Brown Field Airport in Elizabethtown, there was 4.2 inches of rain Saturday.

The bridge is on U.S. 701 near Tory Hole Park.

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