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The North Carolina Department of Transportation has suspended three bridge replacement projects, one of them in Halifax County, due to the contractor being found in default.

The Halifax County project is for the replacement of the bridge over Conocannara Swamp southeast of Halifax on Highway 561. The $2.2 million contract was awarded last March with a September deadline to reopen the road.

The department terminated the contracts with National Bridge Builders of Kernersville and anticipates taking the same action soon on a fourth contract to replace three bridges clustered together on Seven Bridges Road in Edgecombe County.

The Edgecombe County projects already suspended include Highway 97 over Swift Creek north of Tarboro and Highway 122 over Town Creek north of Pinetops.

Because of this breach a bonding company for National Bridge Builders will select replacement contractors to complete the projects at no additional cost to the department. Corey McLamb, the department’s Division 4 construction engineer based in Wilson, said the division staff’s numerous efforts to help National Bridge Builders stay on schedule were unsuccessful. 

He said the company has ceased all work and removed its equipment from the four jobs sites, although three officially were declared breached this week — and the fourth one is pending the same outcome.

“These situations are rare, but our contract specifications require payment and performance bonds that provide a means to complete the project when a contractor cannot finish the job, for whatever reason,” McLamb said.

The department has well-established procedures in place and experience in completing projects with bonding companies.

For all NCDOT contracts, the state agency requires the contractor to have a bonding company in case the department is forced to terminate a contractor’s right to work on a project. 

NCDOT has been forced this year to terminate contracts with National Bridge Builders on projects the company had been working on in McDowell and Stanly counties as well.

No construction activity will occur until new contractors are hired to take over these projects. 

An updated completion timeline for these work sites will be determined after replacement contractors are hired.

The Conocannara Swamp bridge opened on the eve of World War II in 1939 and since then has become structurally deficient, requiring increasingly more repairs and temporary closures for maintenance.