The high-rise span could open to traffic by the end of the year
SURF CITY -- They say time is money. For Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, the Atlanta-based company building the new $54 million Surf City high-rise bridge, that is certainly the case.
If all continues to go as envisioned, the new bridge could open to traffic before the year is out -- some 250 to 300 days ahead of the September 2019 completion date specified in the contract with the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Balfour will earn $10,000 for each day it finishes the bridge early, meaning finishing so early is worth up to $3 million to the construction firm.
But that’s not all icing on the top, said operations manager W. Jay Boyd this week. Pushing for early completion also has meant increased expenses along the way.
“The structure is moving along as we have scheduled,” Boyd said. “The roadway work is lagging a little bit behind, some of the utility work, but we have forces working on them, and we are actually starting to accelerate that work as well.”
Everyone is happy with the quick pace, Boyd said -- especially given that the old swing bridge has had a number of mechanical difficulties in recent months. That, in part, helped convince DOT to green light the bridge with a haste not often associated with the state bureaucracy.
Boyd suggested that the public might see more of this from the DOT.
“We are seeing (quicker approvals) on multiple projects,” he said. “The secretary of transportation for this state is doing a terrific job of accelerating work and expecting projects to be delivered on time. There are multiple projects in the state right now that are being delivered early.”
The new bridge, which Boyd said should last for 100 years, will be 3,600 feet long and, at its apex, 65 feet above mean high tide. Roundabouts at each end, a design feature that is becoming more widely used throughout the region, will help control traffic. The bridge’s sweeping curve reflects both the challenge of rising so high above the water without making the inclines too severe and the desire to protect a nearby public park.
Perhaps the most unique feature of the bridge is a wide bicycle and pedestrian lane across its span -- a lane wide enough to serve standard vehicles in the event of an island-wide evacuation.
Balfour Beatty will remove and own the old swing bridge when the new bridge opens. While there have been a few inquiries from contractors interested in using the old bridge elsewhere, it will probably end up as scrap, Boyd said.
“We will recycle the steel and grind the concrete into an aggregate,” he said. “It is not easy to find a new home for a structure of that size,” and the tight schedule for removing the old bridge makes it difficult to market it for a second life as a bridge.
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