I-95 bridges reach new heights

Posted January 21, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Crews using hydraulic jacks are raising about a dozen bridges over Interstate 95 to reduce the chance of over-sized tractor-trailers hitting them.

Much of I-95 in North Carolina was part of the initial construction of the nation's interstate highway system and is now about 50 years old. The longtime standard height for transfer trucks was 13.5 feet, and overpasses along I-95 were built between 14 and 15 feet high.

Clearance standards have changed through the years, but state Department of Transportation officials maintain that a growing number of truck drivers exceed their height permits and collide with – and sometimes get stuck under – I-95 bridges.

I-95 bridge Bridges raised to elude tall trucks

Last week, for example, a truck hit an overpass in Smithfield. As with other such cases, highway traffic was snarled for hours to extricate the truck or repair the damage.

The DOT hired contractor Kevin Holladay and his crew to jack up each bridge in sections by more than a foot and insert galvanized steel blocks between the top of the supports and the bottom of the bridge.

"This is actually a first for me," Holladay said, noting he usually demolishes and rebuilds bridges.

In Robeson County, crews are building a new overpass after an over-sized truck damaged the old one, which stood at 14 feet, 5 inches.

When the project is completed in November, each bridge will stand at least 16 feet above the highway, which is the new standard for interstate overpasses.

Lifting the old bridges is cheaper than building new spans, and the process doesn't require closing any lanes on I-95, officials said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • killerkestrel Jan 23, 2009

    Current traffic warrants a third lane now, and traffic forcasts require a fourth lane in 20 years according to NCDOT. Latest press release says $5 billion is needed to upgrade I-95.

    And if you raise the bridge, you have to raise the approaches, which may extend for over a thousand feet. Still cheaper than a new bridge, but the bridge is still too narrow according to modern design and too short for I-95 widening.

  • protestthis Jan 22, 2009

    Something else - over the years since I-95 was originally built and the bridges over them, I-95 probably has been resurfaced numerous times - which would have reduced the overall clearance.

    I know in recent years they ground the asphalt down, but i bet this wasn't always the case. Adding that cost to a paving job would surely add a ton of extra money.

    As long as the bridges are structurally sound - this sounds like it saved a chunk of money.

  • Bendal1 Jan 22, 2009

    "Good job by NCDOT to look to future by only building the bridges a foot taller than the limit back in the 1950s. Heaven forbid should we have a few feet of clearance."

    The 16' clearance requirement is a Federal standard; if a bridge has more than that, the Feds often refuse to pay for part of the bridge design since a higher clearance means a longer and more expensive bridge.

    Besides, jacking a bridge up a foot or so is a LOT cheaper than building a new one. A new bridge can cost over a million dollars very easily, while raising one costs a few thousand dollars. Unless the bridge needs to be replaced due to age or wear and tear, this is a good cost effective measure to get the needed clearance.

  • frosty Jan 22, 2009

    Fron my experiance there is a streach of I-95 in SC that is worse than I-95 in NC.

    NCDOT should be commended for finding a cheaper solution than replacing the low bridges. And to streach the highway budjet DOT builds to the standard. Roads were not cheap to build in 1955 either. Maybe the builders didn't think the bridge would have to last so long and that the state would not steal highway funds for other projects.

    Trucks were shorter (lenght and height) when the bridges were designed and built.

    I-95 could certianly use an extra lane. But if you built it to handle the holiday traffic it would be underutilized the rest of the time. I know it is a pain. I drive it every weekend. But when gas is over $3.00 a gallon it seems to be better.

    Maybe the new Obama stimulus package will fix the problem. Be nice to see my tax money going to something useful rather down some fiscal rat hole.


    The engine problem on FL1549 was reported and delt with.

  • charlesboyer Jan 22, 2009

    "Probably all of these bridges will have to be replaced when I-95 finally gets widened because the spans won't be long enough."

    True, but that will likely not happen in our lifetime.

    I have read online forums that call NC's part of I-95 the worst section of the highway south of DC. It really does need to be modernized.

  • killerkestrel Jan 22, 2009

    Probably all of these bridges will have to be replaced when I-95 finally gets widened because the spans won't be long enough.

  • AtALost Jan 21, 2009

    Maybe they are really sympathetic but hard to believe it when they don't take preventative measures. N.O. levees, Mississippi river bridge....even the recent flight 1549 had problems for two days before it finally crash landed. Instead of taking it out of service, someone decided it wasn't serious enough to justify the loss revenue.

  • AtALost Jan 21, 2009

    They weren't any different in the 1950's than they are today. They never have money to prevent a catastrophe but can always find money to pay the victims afterward. They always plan based on best case scenarios then feign sympathy when the 'perfect storm' occurs. Maybe they are really sympathetic but I

  • JuanGrande v3.0 Jan 21, 2009

    Good job by NCDOT to look to future by only building the bridges a foot taller than the limit back in the 1950s. Heaven forbid should we have a few feet of clearance.

  • FloydRTurbo Jan 21, 2009

    as regards I-95 ..... it'll always be "something". Impossible to drive from DC to Charleston without at least one "absolute dead stop" for some uh oh or another. Banging the roof of your vehicle and cussing a lot hasn't helped yet but I keep hoping it will.