Two bridges in Halifax County and six in Northampton County are among 77 in rural counties which will be replaced thanks in part to a $20 million BUILD Transportation Discretionary Grant awarded the state by the United States Department of Transportation.
The money is being spread across 17 rural counties and the overall cost of replacement is projected at $119.1 million with the state Highway Bridge Fund paying for 58 structures and the BUILD Grant covering the cost of replacing 19 weight-restricted bridges.
North Carolina Department of Transportation said in a statement many of the locations are in areas with major agriculture and agribusiness interests, which will benefit from new bridges.
Bridges were selected based on whether the current structure was constraining travel through the area because of its condition or weight restrictions if it was in an area of agricultural production, and whether there were limited options for funding its replacement.
Bridges in Halifax County to be replaced are Conoconarra Swamp Bridge at Highway 561 and the Rocky Swamp Bridge at State Road 1601.
The Conoconarra Swamp Bridge, according to the state’s bridge database, was built in 1939 while the Rocky Swamp Bridge was built in 2000.
The bridges in Northampton County to be replaced are:
Corduroy Creek at State Road 1341 — built in 1975
Wildcat Swamp at State Road 1505 - built in 1965
Branch of Jacks Swamp at State Road 1300 — built in 1958
Occoneechee Creek at State Road 1126 — built in 1967
Gumberry Swamp at State Road 1313 - built in 1957
Jacks Swamp at State Road 1203 - built in 1959
NCDOT said agriculture is the leading industry in North Carolina, contributing more than $87 billion to the economy in 2016. “NCDOT plays an important role in making sure this industry has the transportation infrastructure so it can continue thriving in North Carolina.”
Many of the bridges there are either old or have weight restrictions that limit some trucks or equipment getting through, causing delays due to detour routes.
The oldest bridge to be replaced is currently more than 98 years old. Sixty-three bridges are more than 50 years old, built for a different farm economy when smaller equipment was used and the typical farm was smaller.
“Replacing these bridges will do more than help farmers, though,” the statement said. “While the work is underway, broadband will be installed with each bridge replacement, increasing much-needed digital access in these areas, improving transportation efficiency and rural internet speeds.”