The first night of this week’s overnight closures of the Heide Trask Drawbridge went on as scheduled while the second night’s closure was canceled due to rain and high humidity.
American Bridge, the contractor working on the renovation of the drawbridge, scheduled the overnight closures from Monday, Aug. 19 to Wednesday, Aug. 21, to make up for the work that was suspended during the last round of overnight closures in July due to heavy rains each evening.
North Carolina Department of Transportation resident engineer Kerry Cross said the cleaning and repainting work for which American Bridge has been contracted can only be completed under dry conditions.
In response to the last round of canceled overnight closures and at the request of Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens, Cross said his department had agreed to let town officials know if any of the closures would be canceled that night.
On the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 20, Cross said American Bridge called off the overnight closure around 8 p.m. At 8:35 p.m. an alert email from the town of Wrightsville Beach and the Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce was sent out to an email database of more than 150 Wrightsville Beach business and community contacts.
Owens said the ability of the town to let businesses know whether the overnight closures will occur each evening helps with planning.
“It really doesn’t help anybody that has to make plans for flights and things of that nature but it could help someone like the Blockade Runner, which has told me they have to put their employees up in the hotel if they have shift changes,” Owens said. “That’s about the only thing we really can do.”
To adapt to the overnight bridge closures, some Wrightsville Beach businesses like the Oceanic restaurant and Bluewater Grill have been closing early to make sure their diners and employees can leave the island before the bridge closes at 11:30 p.m.
Mindy Stroupe, corporate communications manager for LM Restaurants — the parent company of both restaurants — said they would be taking dinner reservations until 10 p.m. With the closures scheduled for Monday through Wednesday evenings, Stroupe said closing an hour early has not been a hindrance to business since those nights are typically slower.
Other establishments east of the drawbridge are keeping normal hours, like Jerry Allen’s Sports Bar and Grill, because many of its patrons on those evenings are Wrightsville Beach residents.
While Cross was not certain if American Bridge would be able to complete the remaining work planned during this week’s overnight closures on Wednesday evening, he said the contractor would not use any more overnight closures than absolutely necessary.