Bridge out

Rocks and road closure signs warn motorists away from using Burnside Road’s bridge over Little Island Creek. N.C. Department of Transportation engineers have told contractors they might take construction bids on a replacement for the bridge this summer, but they caution that the schedule remains subject to change. The bridge has been out since September 2020.

WILLIAMSBORO — Department of Transportation engineers have signaled that they might send the planned replacement of the Burnside Road out for construction bids in the summer, but it remains to be seen if that actually takes place.

The 12-month “upcoming projects” list for DOT’s Division 5 — the operating division of the agency in charge of roads in the Tri-County, plus Franklin, Durham, Wake and Person counties — includes the Burnside bridge replacement.

It also lists a potential bid opening on Sept. 14.

But the listing amounts to the project being “tentatively scheduled,” the uncertainty being that “there are things that have to happen before then,” DOT spokesman Marty Homan said on Monday, stressing that the schedule for the bid opening is subject to change.

The Burnside Road bridge has been out of service since September of 2020, when the remnants of Hurricane Sally passed through the area and washed out a portion of its approach road.

But that was the second time the short span was damaged and closed that month, the first coming when water flowing through Little Island Creek scoured away the earth around one of its abutments.

Engineers determined that it would be safer to replace the 54-year-old bridge rather than repair it. But that decision came with an early estimate that, as of March 2021, it would take 21 to 30 months to complete the project.

Design work and environmental reviews were supposed to consume the majority of that time — up to 18 months. Actual construction, engineers figured, would take nine months to a year.

Burnside Road serves as a more-or-less direct connection between Williamsboro and Hicksboro, but with the bridge out residents have to take a longer loop that includes Hicksboro Road and Stagecoach Road.

DOT has placed road-closed signs at the span, and piled rocks on either end of the bridge to more firmly discourage drivers from using it. Part of the pavement on the bridge’s southeast end has also collapsed, underscoring the existence of a hazard.

Officials like Homan have urged patience, given the amount of preliminary work that has to occur, but they’ve acknowledged that the closer is an inconvenience to residents of the area.

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.

Contact Ray Gronberg at rgronberg@hendersondispatch.com or by phone at 252-436-2850.

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