A section of Sparger Road just off N.C. 89 west of Mount Airy has been reopened to traffic after being closed more than four months so a bridge there could be replaced.
Monday afternoon’s reopening by the N.C. Department of Transportation spelled good news for motorists inconvenienced by the closure. They have been forced to use detours that were seven to eight miles out of the way for some.
“I know there’s a lot of people who travel that road,” said Jody Phillips, vice president of Smith-Rowe LLC, a Mount Airy construction company that was the prime contractor for the $992,422 bridge-replacement project.
“We’ve had a slew of phone calls,” Phillips added Tuesday regarding the road closure, “and I know the DOT has, too.”
However, while the past four months might have seemed like an eternity for those on the detour circuit, the project actually was completed faster than originally planned.
The bridge’s reopening on Monday occurred almost two months ahead of the scheduled completion date, DOT District Engineer Brandon Whitaker pointed out Tuesday.
Both lanes of Sparger Road (SR-1621) had been closed on March 24 to allow the old bridge over Pauls Creek to be replaced.
Some of the unrest surfacing among the public was due to a halting of work for almost a month during May and June, after the project had gotten off to a smooth start.
This delay mystified travellers in that area, who thought the project was being neglected as they continued to cope with the detours.
However, it was due to a situation out of the control of both the DOT and Smith-Rowe, Whitaker has said.
After the main bridge structure was erected, the project awaited crews from a subcontractor who were to build the concrete side barriers for the bridge. But that subcontractor, Boss Construction Co. of Mocksville, was swamped with work due to being one of only two companies in North Carolina conducting such tasks, which require specialized machinery.
In the meantime, some motorists crossed the bridge in defiance of closed signs — which was highly unsafe due to the absence of the side barriers — leading to tickets from the N.C. Highway Patrol. Others chose to cut through a private field, according to one motorist familiar with the area who said that the property looked to be adversely affected as a result.
Once the Mocksville firm was on the job in the latter portion of June, the project was able to be finished well ahead of schedule.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.