Cooper attends NCDOT update on U.S. 421, a year after Florence

Cooper attends NCDOT update on U.S. 421, a year after Florence

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday visited the section of U.S. 421 that was washed out during Hurricane Florence last year.

More than 500 feet of the roadway at the Pender-New Hanover County line was washed away by floodwaters that crested nearly a week after rain from Florence stopped in the area. U.S. 421, one of the main routes into Wilmington, was the state’s largest washout of a major road after the storm.

A new bridge is now on the southbound side of the area that was washed out, and is built to withstand another Florence-like storm.

“Previously, there was a 78-inch pipe up underneath here which allowed nearly 32 square feet of area,” says Karen Collette, NCDOT Division 3 Engineer. "Now, with the bridge, there will be over 17,400 feet of area. So that is the magnitude we’re talking about.”

Cooper says this bridge will be a new symbol of resilience for the future.

“We will be building stronger and smarter,” Cooper said. “We will be building with a future storm in mind, with better resiliency.”

Other areas of interest that the DOT is looking to make more durable are I-40 and I-95, after those routes back into Wilmington were shut off as well.

They don’t have a set date for that construction, however, they have alternative ways to get people in and out of the area if Wilmington gets shut off again.

“This is kind of the weak point on 421 because you have two rivers that come together here," says Mike Fox, Chairman of the Board of Transportation for NC. "If I-40 were to be under water or I-74 we would obviously open traffic on any open route. And if it appears all land routes might be out, we can always use ship or ferry.”

The bridge on U.S. 421 is set to open for the southbound lane by the end of September and the northbound side to open by Spring 2020.

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