RALEIGH -The I-85 bridge that carried millions of vehicles over the Yadkin River for decades is now coming down. Crews are in the process of demolishing the old Yadkin River bridge, which was built in 1955 and linked Davidson and Rowan counties until it was closed to traffic last year.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has replaced the old bridge with two new bridges that better meet the needs of today's drivers. The new spans are a sharp contrast to the old bridge, which was narrow and had virtually no shoulders where vehicles could pull off during emergencies. The new bridges are each four lanes wide with ample shoulders. These modern enhancements make driving over the river safer and easier for the more than 60,000 vehicles -many of which are tractor trailers -that pass through this section of I-85 each day.
Contract crews are currently removing the driving surface of the old bridge known as the bridge deck. They are starting on the Davidson County side of the river and working their way south to the Rowan County side. Once the deck is gone, crews will position their equipment on floating barges to remove the support structure. Demolition work is scheduled to be complete by early April, weather permitting.
The old bridge is nearly 0.2 miles long, roughly one-third of the length of the new bridges.
Currently, the new I-85 North bridge is carrying two lanes of I-85 northbound traffic and two lanes of I-85 southbound traffic. Once crews finish widening I-85 to four lanes on either side of the new I-85 South bridge this spring, NCDOT will open it and shift traffic into its final pattern.
This work is all part of the I-85 Corridor Improvement Project, the state's top mobility project. NCDOT broke ground in September 2010 on the southern segment of the project, which involves widening 3.3 miles of I-85 from north of Long Ferry Road in Rowan County to north of N.C. 150 in Davidson County, reconstructing the N.C. 150 interchange and replacing eight bridges, including the Yadkin River bridge. NCDOT expects to complete all work on I-85 within the southern segment of the project by May.
For more information, visit www.i-85yadkinriver.com. To receive instant updates on traffic pattern changes, construction-related congestion and project milestones, follow NCDOT's I-85 Twitter feed.
(Editor's note: Aerial photos and construction images of the new bridges are available on the NCDOT Flickr page.)
Crews demolishing the old Yadkin River Bridge