Bridging the post-Florence gap on US 421

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DOT rebuilding the highway at New Hanover-Pender county line after it was washed out by the recent hurricane

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — When the asphalt pieces of a 700-foot stretch of U.S. 421 were removed after being destroyed by Hurricane Florence, the resulting creek looked almost like it might have centuries ago.

“It basically recreated what Fisherman’s Creek looked like before the road was here,” said Daniel Waugh, resident engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT). “Mother Nature took back what was hers.”

Crews from Balfour Beatty Construction, under a contract with the DOT, were in the process this week of building a temporary crossing of the creek that DOT officials hope will be open for two-lane travel by the end of October or early November.

Previously, the creek at the New Hanover-Pender county line was channeled under the road through a 78-inch culvert that was destroyed by floodwaters.

The DOT is eschewing that design for a full repair that will see two new, 560-foot bridges built by next summer in a project that is estimated to cost at least $15 million. It will be the state’s most expensive road repair from Florence, which dropped up to 30 inches of rain on parts of the Wilmington region.

“That’s the biggest repair in the state,” said Karen Collette, DOT division engineer for the region that includes Southeastern North Carolina.

At the storm’s height, all or portions of hundreds of roads were closed due to downed trees, power lines or flooding, the DOT said.

In addition to U.S. 421, at least three other major roads in the Wilmington region continue to have a portion closed — N.C. 133 in Brunswick County and N.C. 210 and N.C. 53 in Pender County. All saw sections washed out by floodwaters. Another 28 secondary roads have sections closed as well.

“Repairs on several of these roads are already under way,” the DOT said in a release.

Reporter Tim Buckland can be reached at

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