I-95 bridges reach new heights

Posted January 21, 2009 4:36 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.