WILMINGTON – The section of U.S. 421 at the Pender-New Hanover County line that was heavily damaged during Hurricane Florence reopened early this evening with a temporary bridge that allows single-lane traffic in each direction.
This section of highway experienced the worst degree of washout in the state from the hurricane as more than 500 feet of roadway was washed away by cresting floodwaters. Repair work started as soon as water receded from the roadway in early October.
The final steps handled today included pavement markings, seeding and mulching, signing and traffic control. The cleanup at the site and the temporary structure cost about $2 million.
Planning is underway for a permanent repair, which will be two new two-lane bridges – one for each direction – at an estimated cost of between $10 million and $12 million. Construction on the permanent bridges is expected to start by early 2019.
Drivers will continue to use the temporary bridge until one of the new bridges is built. Then, all traffic will move onto the new bridge, while the other new structure is built. Once both bridges are ready, they will open for two-lane traffic at the same time. It is expected to take about a year before that happens.
By putting bridges at that location instead of installing a culvert pipe under the highway, the area will have a lot more capacity for flood water to go under the bridge during major storms.
Although the temporary bridge is open, drivers in the single-lane pattern in each direction are reminded to use extra caution and drive carefully through the area.
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