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S-Bridge work starts, then stops

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A crane prepares to drive a test piling at the future site of the new Hertford S-Bridge.

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

HERTFORD — The project to replace Hertford’s S-Bridge hit a snag Monday when the crane that was driving a test piling sprung a leak that spilled hydraulic fluid into the river.

A boom was quickly placed in the Perquimans River around the liquid to contain it.

McLean Contracting of Chesapeake, Virginia, has started driving the first of what will be 195 pilings for the new bridge. McLean plans to drive five pilings and then test them for their load-bearing strength.

Once McLean determines the proper depth for the pilings, the remaining 190 will be ordered. Tim Hass, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said the pilings can be cast and delivered in as little as a month.

The 110-foot pilings will be driven about 90 feet into the mud of the Perquimans River. There are two sensors located on the riverbank on the Hertford side of the river to measure vibration. If it becomes too great, the project will be stopped until the problem is fixed.

In most respects, the $57 million replacement S-Bridge will look and operate similarly to the current bridge, Hass said.

One change will be the causeway. It has been settling for decades because of poor soils under it. It will replaced with a low bridge that will be built parallel to the path of the current causeway. The old asphalt and any man-made materials under the causeway will be removed, Hass said.

“The biggest difference will be the new bridge’s roadway is much wider,” Hass said. “Since the truss will pivot about a center support there will be two spans beneath it. However only one will have a fender system and navigational lighting.”

One thing that won’t change is the “Turtle Log” just off the causeway in the river. DOT has no plans to remove it. In fact there will be a sidewalk running along the downstream side of the new causeway bridge, something that doesn’t exist now. It will feature an expanded area where the Turtle Log is now to allow pedestrians to get a closer view of the turtles.

Also the new swing bridge will be higher that the old one, which worries some Church Street residents who fear motorists coming off the incline will speed past their homes.

Traffic between Winfall and Hertford should continue uninterrupted from September 2020 until April 2021 when it will be cut off for work on the project. The project is expected to be complete in December 2021.

One thing the public will see before the new bridge is constructed is the new bridge tender’s house.

“The tender house will be seen in the river before the meat of the bridge building begins,” Hass said. “The tender house walls could go up simultaneously with the installation of bridge pile caps.”

A pile cap is a thick concrete mat that rests on concrete.

DOT’s current plan is to dismantle and remove the current bridge. DOT previously offered to donate the bridge to the town of Hertford but the talks never resulted in an agreement.

To view a video of the new project, visit https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/us-17-business/Pages/photos-videos.aspx.