U.S. RT 701 bridge near Elizabethtown remains open while crane tests are complete

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY)- Drivers along a major highway in Bladen County need to be prepared for possible delays sometime this week.

Lane closures on the new U.S. Route 701 bridge near Elizabethtown could get underway mid-week.

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s resident engineer, Blythe Jordan, there is a lot of logistics and planning that comes with a closure like this.

“In the next few weeks, 12 days, we are going to lifting 42-girders to set on the bridge across the Cape Fear River,” he said.

Before that can happen the – a nearly 2.6 million pound- 300-foot crane has to pass tests, according to Jordan.

“We will have to close the bridge between 9 and ten in the morning and 2 and 3 (in the afternoon) to make those lifts off the existing bridge,” he said.

According to Jordan, about 10,250 cars and 1,250 trucks travel across the 701-bridge everyday – these vehicles won’t have access while the bridge is closed.

There was a concern surrounding first responder vehicles – according to Bladen County’s EMS director David Howell, but that’s changed.

“We did have several meetings and we did come up with a plan to make sure we have resources on both sides of the bridge, law enforcement on both sides of the bridge,” he said.

Both, police cruisers and ambulances will be ushered through during the closure.

However, a fire engine can’t, due to its size and weight — instead – it will be stationed on the north side of the bridge.

Should an emergency arise, fire fighters will then catch a ride across the bridge to the fire truck.

Elizabethtown’s fire chief said services will not be impacted because of the closures.

“We’ll be able to handle it with what resources we’re planning  to stage across the river,” said Chief Hollis Freeman.

Howell said putting the plan into place was a joint-venture.

“Just a little bit of effort but we got it coordinated, there’s no concerns,” said Howell.  “There will be proper EMS, and fire response, and law response.”

According to the DOT the crane needs a bit more fine tuning which may delay the closure until Wednesday.

 

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