NCDOT repairs washed out roads, bridges after heavy storms


When severe weather hits this area, we can get inundated with heavy rains— rains that can wash out roads and bridges.

In most cases, the NCDOT pays for those emergency road repairs and some repairs take longer than others for a variety of reasons.

Record rains washed out part of Highway 401 on the Wake/Franklin County line last month requiring emergency repairs.

When a road washes out, it takes more than just replacing the dirt and putting a new layer of blacktop over it to fix it.

“Our engineers go out and assess the situation and determine if we have materials in stock to make the repair or if we have to order a new culvert and wait for it to be fabricated,” said NCDOT’s Marty Holman.

In the case of Highway 401, where it crosses the Little River, the washout created a frustratingly long detour since it is the main route into and out of southeastern Franklin County.

The detour made model airplane enthusiast Dennis Penny wish he could climb aboard his little radio controlled aircraft and fly over the washed out road.

Penny says, “The detour put more cars into a town that has two lights and backed it up—especially in the morning when people tried to get to work.”

Initially, NCDOT thought that repair might not be finished until the end of July — but luck was with them in the form of a road widening project that was already happening there.

“We had a contractor in place because we were planning to replace that culvert,” said Holman. “It was already under contract and we were able to come up with a fix to expedite that.”

Holman says in that case, “We actually got it done six weeks ahead of schedule.”

For Penny and others who live in the area, that was welcome news.

“Everybody around here is thrilled,” said Penny.

That road was one of 12 in Wake and Franklin County that washed out last month when a thunderstorm dropped 7 inches of rain in about 4 hours.

That’s a lot of emergency repairs and CBS 17 wanted to know how does NCDOT pay for that?

“That comes out of the DOT’s maintenance budget,” said Holman. “We plan and prepare for that. There is a line item in the budget for maintenance of road or bridge washouts, potholes that sort of thing.”

So you might be asking, why not replace culverts that wash out with bridges instead? DOT says that is determined by amount of water in the stream.

“For a culvert, those are for smaller width bodies of water and so we put those in as long as they handle the flow,” said Homan. “Culverts can be different sizes. If we’re talking a large body of water, a large stream or river, those will require a bridge.”

NCDOT is always evaluating and inspecting culverts on a regular basis.

As needs change, sometimes a culvert might be replaced by a bridge—especially if traffic volume increases and the road needs to be redesigned.

Each road repair is different, because each requires a different kind of fix, and NCDOT has to see if it has materials on hand to do the job or if special parts need to be fabricated.

If you need to report a problem with a culvert, bridge or other NC DOT roadway, you can do that here.

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