Staff photo by Allison Potter
Traffic backs up down the length of Salisbury Street on Saturday, Oct. 20 as motorists try to leave Wrightsville Beach during the Beach2Battleship triathlon. Lane closures on the Heide Trask Drawbridge contributed to the wait.
After severe traffic congestion clogged the roadways into and out of Wrightsville Beach on Saturday, Oct. 20, due to a combination of the PPD Beach2Battleship triathlon and the closure of two lanes on the Heide Trask Drawbridge for bridgework, officials from the town of Wrightsville Beach and the North Carolina Department of Transportation are discussing how to better manage the large volume of traffic expected for the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla on the weekend of Nov. 23 and 24.
Interim town manager, Tony Wilson, said the plan the town has submitted to the NCDOT for after the finale of the flotilla on Nov. 24 includes one-way traffic across the bridge.
“We are hoping to open both lanes over the bridge for traffic going off the beach for some periods of time after the fireworks event and we are still trying to work out those details,” Wilson said. “Since, hopefully, most people are going to be on the beach, how do we get them off the beach?”
Although both lanes will be dedicated to traffic leaving the beach for several hours immediately following the event, Wilson said there would be staggered times for cars to travel onto the island. Planning ahead for the congestion, Wilson said the town has also contracted an EMS crew to be on the island during and after the event.
Since altering traffic patterns requires approval from the NCDOT, the town is still waiting to find out if the proposal is possible. In an email, Kerry Cross, a resident engineer with the NCDOT, said his department is currently discussing the plan with the bridge contractor, American Bridge Company.
“We are optimistic that we can work out a way to get the traffic off the island quickly following this event,” Cross stated.
Wilson said he hopes to hear back from NCDOT about the proposed plan within a week.
Linda Brown, chairwoman for the flotilla, said the Causeway Drive bridge would also be open an hour longer before the boat parade begins to allow more time for patrons to get to the viewing areas. Brown said she is hoping to hear good news from the NCDOT about the one-way exit solution following the parade and fireworks.
“If that’s possible, it would be advantageous to us,” she said. “We just want to try to make it as easy as possible for our patrons.”
Brown said the board encourages visitors to allow more time to drive to and from flotilla events or spend the day on Wrightsville Beach. She also encourages residents to subscribe to the Wrightsville Beach Police Department’s email list to receive updates about the traffic pattern.