WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Crews with the North Carolina Department of Transportation finished work on a temporary bridge over U.S. 421 that opened to traffic Wednesday evening.
More than 500 feet of U.S. 421 near the New Hanover-Pender County line was washed away by floodwaters from Hurricane Florence. DOT officials previously announced that they planned to have a temporary, two-lane bridge open by the end of October.
On Wednesday night, the DOT said a bridge allowing single-lane traffic in each direction is open.
Pavement markings, seeding and mulching, signing and traffic control were handled Wednesday. Cleanup at the site and the temporary structure cost about $2 million.
Planning is underway for a permanent repair, which will be two new two-lane bridges — one for each direction — at an estimated cost of between $10 and $12 million. Construction on the permanent bridges is expected to start by early 2019.
Drivers will continue to use the temporary bridge until one of the new bridges is built. Then, all traffic will move onto the new bridge while the other new structure is built.
Once both bridges are ready, they will open for two-lane traffic at the same time. It is expected to take about a year before that happens.
By putting bridges at that location instead of installing a culvert pipe under the highway, the area will have more capacity for floodwater to go under the bridge during major storms.
An NCDOT spokesperson said crews hope to finish by fall 2019.