Funding and a schedule are in place for replacing the D Street bridge over the Reddies River.

Plans call for accepting bids for construction of the new bridge in January 2023, said David Uchiyama, DOT communications officer for western N.C.

“If the project (bid) is awarded in January 2023 as currently planned, construction can begin as early as February 2023, and would likely last two years,” said Uchiyama.

“The January 2023 (bid) award date is a place holder, but the project should not move beyond” the fiscal year starting July 1, 2022, he added.

Uchiyama said funds have been budgeted for the project, with an estimated cost of $11.5 million.

The DOT plans to maintain traffic in both directions using two of the current bridge’s four lanes while half of the bridge is constructed and then divert traffic to the new half while the other half is constructed, said Joe Laws, bridge project manager for North Wilkesboro-based Division 11 of the DOT.

It was originally constructed as a two-lane bridge in 1934-35 and widened to accommodate four lanes in 1966. Laws said this will allow removal of half of the bridge for replacement while still having traffic on the other half.

During a Wilkes Economic Development Corp. board meeting on June 14, Interim North Wilkesboro Town Manager Ed Evans said the town received a letter from the DOT saying pre-construction work for replacing the bridge would soon start.

Evans said he’d like to see the bridge constructed wide enough to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. The bridge connects the Yadkin River Greenway and the Jefferson Turnpike section of the greenway, plus the greenway passes beneath the bridge.

Laws said local government will be given a chance to comment on the new bridge’s design.

The May 28 letter from the DOT said engineers and surveyors might be on or near the bridge in the next several months collecting data for its design. It also said geologists, biologists and other professionals might be there as part of environmental impact studies.

The bridge was put on the replacement list because its “substructure grade” dropped to a four out of a possible nine when it was inspected in 2017, said Uchiyama.

Bridges are graded based on multiple factors, including traffic count, when they’re inspected every two years. The average daily traffic count for D Street near the Reddies River bridge is about 19,000 vehicles, among the largest in Wilkes.

The current bridge is 285 feet long, has a total deck width of 60 feet and 9 inches and a 48-foot-wide roadway.

Funding was provided through the Works Project Administration (WPA), a federal program launched to help the nation recover from the Great Depression, when the original portion of the bridge was built in 1934-35,

It replaced a one-lane covered bridge, built after an earlier covered bridge was washed out by the 1916 flood. This later covered bridge remained in use while its replacement was built and was torn down after the WPA-funded bridge was completed in July 1935.

When the original portion of the current bridge was built, the Reddies River was the western town limits.

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