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Staff photo by Ben Benton / A car heads south on U.S. Highway 11 in DeKalb County, Ala., crossing a bridge over Dry Creek that has been targeted for replacement.

A $2.7 million bridge replacement project on U.S. Highway 11 in DeKalb County, Alabama, delayed by weather for most of the year is set to begin Thursday.

Once begun, the project will close Highway 11 to through traffic.

"This closure is anticipated to remain in place through fall 2020 while the bridge constructed in 1928 is demolished and a new bridge is constructed," Alabama Department of Transportation spokesman Seth Burkett said in a statement.

The current bridge is 114 feet long, 24 feet wide, with narrow approaches compared with the new bridge's dimensions, 175 feet long with a 44-foot-wide roadway, according to ALDOT officials.

"The new bridge will be about 60 feet longer and 20 feet wider than the old bridge, improving safety for motorists," Burkett said.

The project was initially set to start in early February, but continuing wet weather since the first of the year caused delays in moving utilities.

ALDOT contractor Pelham-based The Bridge Builders of Alabama will replace the aging concrete span over Dry Creek near the Sulphur Springs community, about one mile south of the Highway 11 intersection with County Road 140. Cracks can be seen everywhere on the bridge, some gaps large enough to see the creek below.

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Staff photo by Ben Benton / Rain-swollen Dry Creek can be seen through a crack on a bridge on U.S. Highway 11 in DeKalb County, Alabama, targeted for replacement in a project that has been delayed by recent heavy rains.

Even though it's an historic highway, the two-way, two-lane road isn't used heavily anymore. A 2018 ALDOT traffic count shows about 488 vehicles cross the stretch each day.

The detour to take motorists around the work adds about a mile to the length to travel, which is about 10 miles. Until fall, motorists traveling in both directions will be detoured to Interstate 59 via Alabama Highway 117 at Hammondville and DeKalb County Road 140 at Sulphur Springs, according to ALDOT.

In DeKalb County, Ambulance Service executive director Cheryl Turner and geospatial information manager Austin Reed said in February that the project shouldn't present any problems for emergency response because county agencies are well positioned already to use the interstate for calls in the area.

Officials noted "authorized vehicles only" access roads in the interstate median that give emergency responders shortcuts when needed.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

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