Durham opens Tobacco Trail bridge

Feb. 20, 2014 @ 07:22 PM

The American Tobacco Trail’s bridge over Interstate 40 is finally open.

Officials announced the move on Thursday, Public Works Director Marvin Williams confirming it in a brief announcement at the start of an afternoon City Council work session.

“We already have users going over it right now,” Williams said.

The opening came more than four months behind schedule, delayed by problems the bridge’s builders ran into last fall when they started to assemble its safety fencing.

Installers found that the parts for the fencing didn’t fit property. They tried to work around the problem, but city officials decided to halt assembly so everyone involved could look for a fix.

Public Works staffers subsequently said they thought the problem a result of both design and construction errors.

The fix meant delays as the bridge’s builders and architects dickered over a repair strategy. And even after they settled on one, they needed time to procure materials and fabricate new components.

Once work resumed, there was continued back-and-forth about the fit and finish of the fencing.

But on Monday, engineers at bridge designer Parsons Brinckerhoff gave the all-clear for an opening, provided contractor Blythe Construction did some touch-up work on a weld and replaced some bolts.

The bridge is the biggest piece of the $7.5 million contract city officials awarded Blythe in 2012 to complete the trail’s link from Durham to Chatham County.

The project included a short extension of the paved path north from the bridge to N.C. 54, and a longer extension past The Streets at Southpoint mall south to the county line.

Blythe is still doing some touch-up work, but the full connection is now in use, Williams said.

The trail extensions opened in October, even though the bridge itself remained closed.

In the past couple of weeks, however, some people got a jump on things by taking to the bridge despite warning signs advising them to stay off.