DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — The Yadkin River Bridge at the Rowan/Davidson County line is closing for good. The bridge carried more than 60,000 drivers each day, but for the next few months north and southbound drivers will share the new Yadkin River Bridge until the entire project, which spans 40 miles, is finished.
Work crews began detouring southbound drivers at 8 p.m. and by midnight, a stretch of Interstate-85 changes for good. It is the first piece of several to make a 40 mile stretch of interstate between Mecklenburg County and Davidson County smoother and safer.
For the next eight months, drivers in the small Davidson County town of Linwood will have to adjust getting on Interstate 85 southbound near the Yadkin River.
"This is a big change to everybody here because we're used to going on 150 to get to Salisbury and now they're shutting the interstate and completely cutting if off," said Linwood resident John Edwards.
Beginning Wednesday evening, the two southbound lanes on the Old Yadkin River Bridge were closed for traffic permanently. From now on, drivers heading south on Interstate 85 will merge onto the new Yadkin River Bridge which opened for northbound traffic in May.
"The good thing is that we're not requiring traffic to take a long off site detour. It's just going to be shifting from one side to another, and there's still going to be two lanes available for north and southbound traffic,” said NCDOT spokesperson Jen Thompson.
State transportation officials said the old, Yadkin River bridge will be demolished in November and by next April four lanes of the new Yadkin River bridges will be open in each direction.
"It's a very important route, important bridge, not just regionally but statewide, nationally, because I-85 is important corridor to move people and goods," said Thompson.
The Yadkin River Bridge work is part of a broader widening improvement plan to Interstate-85 between Mecklenburg County and Davidson County. Work in Cabarrus County to widen Interstate-85 between Concord Mills and Exit 55 is well under way and should be done by the end by late 2013.
The Yadkin River Bridge across Interstate-85 opened in 1955. Due to its age and structural deficiencies, transportation officials described it as the highest profile construction project in the state.