Officials hope 2 bridges over South Fork River will bring new energy to Cramerton

When Cramerton Mayor Ronnie Worley recently drove across a new bridge spanning the South Fork River, he breathed a sigh of relief.

Construction started in October 2012, with a completion date of April 2014. But it had taken work crews longer than expected, and the delay caused problems.

The C.C. Dawson Bridge connects Lakewood Road and North Main Street, a popular main corridor from Cramerton to U.S. 74, Belmont, Charlotte and other points east.

This easy, quick route in Gaston County was disrupted during construction, and many downtown business owners complained that some customers stopped coming because of the detour, Worley said.

Altered traffic patterns also caused backups and increased collisions.

Finally, vehicles are flowing again on a new $4 million bridge complete with decorative lighting and a sidewalk. The official dedication ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. Aug. 9.

“The whole town is relieved and glad we’ve gotten to this point,” said Worley. “The bridge will serve us for generations.”

Lee Isley, pharmacist at Cramerton Drug Co., said the bridge being out hurt downtown businesses.

“We felt it for sure,” he said. “But business seems to be coming back a little bit. We’re starting to get a little more traffic.”

Named for a legendary Cramerton Mill executive, the original, 60-year-old Dawson bridge was dismantled piece by piece. When crews moved onto the river to start construction of the main pier supports for the bridge, unknown material in the river made it extremely difficult to complete the piers and increased the project’s construction time, according to Eric Conner, engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The completed bridge – 444 feet long and 40 feet wide – is one of 13,638 across the state maintained by the N.C. Department of Transportation.

As Cramerton’s new bridge reopens for traffic, the town is about to start work on a pedestrian bridge across the South Fork River, linking downtown to a public park on Goat Island.

The prefabricated bridge will be 165 feet long and 12 feet wide. But the entire span, including approaches and ramps, will be 365 feet long.

The $1 million project is expected to be completed by April.

Cramerton Town Manager Michael Peoples said it will help create several other levels of connectivity. The town has $765,000 in federal money through the N.C. Department of Transportation to complete its greenway from the Lakewood neighborhood to the new South Fork Village apartment complex north of Wilkinson Boulevard.

The greenway span is three-quarters of a mile long with a 10-foot-wide path paved with asphalt.

On Tuesday, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the first phase of South Fork Village, which has 350 apartment units.

With a pedestrian bridge in place, people can walk to downtown Cramerton from the Lakewood neighborhood and the apartment complex, which will eventually be linked through the Carolina Thread Trail to the town of McAdenville.

Officials feel the two bridges will bring new energy to the town of 4,300.

“I truly feel the new vehicular bridge will be the gateway into Cramerton,” said Peoples. “And the pedestrian bridge will create a destination for people to come enjoy recreation opportunities and also enjoy the businesses and the river. Not many communities in North Carolina have a 30-acre island in the downtown business district. We’re really embracing the river.”