Overnight bridge closures, public comments sought

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lumina News file photo 

The town of Wrightsville Beach and the North Carolina Department of Transportation will host a public meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22 to discuss ongoing repairs to the Heide Trask Drawbridge and their effect on upcoming events such as the YMCA Triathlon.

To make up for the scheduled overnight bridge closures that did not occur during the month of July, American Bridge and the North Carolina Department of Transportation will close the Heide Trask Drawbridge overnight from Aug. 19-21. The overnight closures will extend from 11:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights. 

Originally scheduled for July 29-31, the closures will be used by American Bridge to clean and repaint the structural steel on the spans of the drawbridge. The July closings were cancelled because the crews could not clean or repaint the bridge during the rain events that occurred those evenings. 

NCDOT resident engineer Kerry Cross said the crews would need dry conditions to operate the cleaning apparatus and for the paint to dry properly. However, The Weather Channel is forecasting rain chance percentages of 50, 30 and 60 percent on Aug. 19-21, respectively. 

American Bridge is attempting to complete a process that requires dry conditions during one of southeastern North Carolina’s wettest months, but Cross said it was a timing and mobilization issue. 

“They have got the equipment and personnel on site now to do that and they need to go ahead and get this knocked out,” Cross said. “You wouldn’t want to finish all the other painting and remobilize a crew back here to do three or four nights worth of work. That is why we are trying to go ahead and pursue this now.”

Cross said American Bridge has to make the decision about whether to close the bridge or not the evening of the scheduled closure, despite many businesses and individuals already having made plans for the closures. 

Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti said he would like to see a quicker decision on whether the drawbridge would be closed 

“When they schedule it and don’t do it, it still puts businesses and citizens at an inconvenience,” Cignotti said. “Businesses have already planned for it; they just can’t suddenly stay open … but people also need to realize that this is a rather large project on a bridge that is in dire need of repair and we just all need to work together.” 

To discuss the ongoing drawbridge rehabilitation project, the town of Wrightsville Beach will host a joint public meeting with NCDOT representatives on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 6 p.m. 

Cignotti said the meeting was arranged by representatives Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover, and Rick Catlin, R-New Hanover, after the representatives discussed Wrightsville Beach’s concerns with NCDOT. 

“This gives everyone a chance to hear from NCDOT,” Cignotti said. “The goal to me is to communicate to the public so people have a better understanding about where [the project is] and where [it is] going, and dispel some of those rumors that are out there.”

Cross said he, and a couple other NCDOT Division 3 staff members like Karen Fussell, would be on hand that night to give a brief presentation and address any of the public’s concerns. 

One item Cignotti said he hopes to address with NCDOT is the timeline of the bridge renovation. 

“My main concern will be, once they close down to two lanes in October, that American Bridge does everything it can to stick to the timeline they are scheduling,” he said. “I want to make sure they are not going to extend it again … and then also that they do their best to work with us on the upcoming events we have in the fall.”

Town manager Tim Owens said he would also like to address the town’s upcoming events like the Beach2Battleship Full and Half Marathon, YMCA Triathlon and the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla. 

While he is planning to hold the meeting in Town Hall Chambers, Owens said the meeting might be moved elsewhere to accommodate a larger crowd if one is anticipated. 

email cole@luminanews.com   

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