By Charlotte Smith
The U.S. Highway 701 southbound bridge over the Cape Fear River in Elizabethtown has been closed since Hurricane Florence hit Bladen County in September 2018. A log jam under the bridge has been a costly issue for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The log jam first appeared after Hurricane Matthew in October of 2016, but grew to an enormous size after Hurricane Florence. The extreme amount of debris under the bridge has caused concerns about possible damage to the bridge. According to Andrew Barksdale, Public Relations Officer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, progress has been made with the debris removal, however the rainy weather has delayed the removal process.
In mid-December the contractors had completed about 15 percent of the log jam clean up according to Barksdale.
The week of November 16, 2018 work had to cease due to the excessive amount of rain fall and the rise in the river Barksdale explained. The river rising again and flooding the parking lot where the contractors stage heavy equipment, such as dump trucks, loaders, excavators caused the delays.
Some of the log dam disappeared by the debris floating downstream, due to the rising and falling of the river during the wet weather in 2018, according to Barksdale.
The crews were expected to work through the end of January on removing the debris from the log jam. The contractors had a target date of January 31 to have the debris removal process completed, according to Barksdale. However due to the nature, the process has extended into February.
When asked about damages to the bridge, Barksdale said, “We do not visibly see any damage to the bridge. But, we can’t fully inspect it until the log jam is out of the way. Thus, we have to keep it closed as a safety precaution.”
The southbound bridge will remain closed until further notice while debris removal and fender repairs are being made.
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