The Lindsay C. Warren Bridge over the Alligator River will not be opening to boats anytime soon, because both the main and backup equipment that opens and closes the draw span built in the early 1960s are currently inoperable.
The main system failed due to a power surge during Hurricane Dorian on Sept. 6, according to NCDOT spokesperson Tim Hass. Bridge tenders were having to use the auxiliary system until it broke last week.
The two-lane bridge is notorious for causing extended delays for travelers on U.S. 64 between Dare and Tyrrell counties, even after replacement of mechanical and electric systems during renovations over the last decade.
“The bridge has been closed to marine traffic since the Thursday incident, as we need to replace some anchor bolts…before we can get the auxiliary system reliable again,” Hass said.
A time frame was not yet known for when the bridge will reopen to mariners using the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
“Once that’s done, we will likely open the bridge to marine traffic again, but it may be on a regulated schedule, as that auxiliary system is not meant to continually open and close at will,” Hass said.
Getting the main control system back online is being held up because the parts have to be custom-built
“(NCDOT) Structures Division in Raleigh has expedited their purchase and delivery,” Hass said.
The draw span issues come just as the fall migration of boaters from northern ports to southern waters is picking up.
Traveling mariners use the Intracoastal Waterway to avoid the treacherous Atlantic Ocean, because its well marked and offers much calmer sailing conditions.
Some can detour around the closure by traveling down the Croatan or Roanoke sounds, then across Pamlico Sound to reach the Neuse River where they re-enter the ICW north of Beaufort.
The William B. Umstead Bridge has just a 45-foot clearance, which forces tall-masted sailboats to have to go around Roanoke Island and under the 65-foot tall Washington Baum Bridge.
Going either way adds a significant amount of travel time between Coinjock and Morehead City, and both channel and weather conditions are known to tax even the most experienced mariners.
Plans have been formulated to build a fixed-span bridge, but a lack of funding and environmental concerns over the widening of U.S. 64 between Manns Harbor and Columbia have held up the replacement.