U.S. 401 bridge closed to remove river debris

Posted September 29, 2008 3:26 p.m. EDT
Updated September 29, 2008 5:02 p.m. EDT

— The state Department of Transportation has closed southbound U.S. Highway 401 to remove debris piled up against the supports of the highway bridge across the Cape Fear River.

Logs and other debris were carried downstream after Tropical Storm Hanna crossed the state three weeks ago, and engineers said the logjam needs to be cleared before it compromises the bridge's structure.

"I guess with time, it could build up high enough to damage the columns. I think it would take a whole lot," said Ken Pulley, a supervisor with Sanford Contractors, which is handling the debris removal.

Engineers said the crossing is safe for vehicles, and there's no evidence the debris has damaged the bridge.

Cranes were brought in to pluck logs from the river. Workers on the bridge then cut the logs up and load them into dump trucks to be hauled to a landfill.

"It's a little bit time-consuming," Pulley said. "Everybody just has to be very careful."

Snakes sometimes slither out of the logs onto the highway, he said.

The state requires crews to remove as much of the debris as possible from the river, instead of loosening it and sending it downstream.

All traffic has been rerouted onto the northbound U.S. 401 bridge. Engineers said the southbound bridge will likely remain closed until at least Thursday.

After the bridge is reopened, Pulley's crew has to perform a larger debris removal at the U.S. Highway 301 bridge over the Cape Fear River in Fayetteville, where the logjam nearly covers the river.