PILOT MOUNTAIN, N.C. -- On Monday, June 23, the N.C. Department of Transportation will close the N.C. 268 bridge over U.S. 52 in Pilot Mountain to begin replacing the bridge.
The work is expected to take a year and business owners fear it could destroy the town's crippled economy.
"I rely on traffic," said Donald Mueller who depends on U.S. 52 traffic for his Mountain View Family Restaurant. He first found out about the plans last week and believes the detours will put him out of business. "I have 20 employees that are probably going to loose their job if my business drops off. I've worked for 3 years keeping this place going in a terrible economy and now they're shutting down the artery that allows my guest to get to me."
Crews will close N.C. 268 at the roundabouts near the bridge to begin removing the existing structure, which was built in 1960.
The bridge is considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient, which mean that although the bridge is safe, it was built to design standards no longer in use and requires costly maintenance to remain functional.
Transportation officials say they notified the community through newspaper notices and town meetings.
"Some people didn't even know about it till the last few days," said Julie Southern who worries the detours will bring more traffic through the two lane downtown and right by the schools. "When school starts back it's going to probably cause delays."
During construction, a detour will be in place directing N.C. 268 eastbound traffic to U.S. 52 South to Pilot Mountain State Park Exit, then from Pilot Knob Road to U.S. 52 North. N.C. 268 westbound traffic will be detoured to U.S. 52 northbound to Cooke School Road exit, then from Cooke School Road to U.S. 52 southbound.
Police plan to station officers on each side of U.S. 52 while community fire and rescue crews plan to rely on nearby districts to help respond to highway crashes and emergency's as the bridge will cut down on response time.
The town is a popular stop for many travelers and tourist. "I wouldn't of stopped if the exit was closed down," said traveler Mark Boggs of Ohio, who stopped for dinner with his family after vacationing at Myrtle Beach. "I think they could do something different, shut one lane down and do one lane at a time or something."
Many fear this closure could be the last straw for the town that's economy dried up when manufactures closed and left town.
"It's going to deter people from coming here," said Mueller. "It's going to take a already depressed economy, because we are a small town, that lost all its factory and its going to make it worse."