ASHEVILLE – N.C. Department of Transportation officials are implementing a safety plan that includes protection for boaters during removal of an old bridge on Interstate 26 over the French Broad River.
Similar to a bridge removal at this location 13 months ago, the contractor on the I-26 widening project is utilizing a variety of safety measures to prevent material from falling into the river.
The removal process — approved by state and federal environmental agencies — includes cutting sections of the structure, followed by removal of cut pieces and girders and the extraction of pier columns.
The safety plan includes a spotter who will be stationed upriver of the bridge and in communication with the removal team. In an emergency, the spotter will alert the team to pause operations.
“A wide variety of construction, engineering and environmental experts combined to develop this plan,” said Luke Middleton, Resident Engineer on the project. “The plan worked well the first time, and we have implemented some suggestions from last year.
“We are limiting chances that removing the bridge would interfere with boating trips.”
The current schedule calls for the bridge removal to be complete in 6-8 weeks, before many recreational boaters begin warm-weather float trips.
NCDOT and the contractor have timed the bridge removal for when river traffic is limited due to cold weather, but NCDOT appreciates the need to provide safe passage for boaters and reduce the potential of falling material.
French Broad River boaters may conclude their journey at Bent Creek River Park or portage to a location downstream of the I-26 bridge to continue without going through the work zone.