ONLINE UPDATE: Altered traffic pattern for flotilla

by Cole Dittmer
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

With passage on the Heide Trask Drawbridge limited to one lane both way, the town of Wrightsville Beach, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and American Bridge Company have devised a plan they hope will ease the traffic congestion expected after the conclusion of the North Carolina Holiday Flotilla fireworks show Saturday evening.

Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said officers and traffic flaggers would be placed on both sides of the drawbridge to control the flow when the fireworks begin around 7 p.m.

“We are going to minimize traffic coming onto Wrightsville Beach and maximize the traffic leaving the beach,” House said. “When that happens we will have flaggers on both sides of the bridge and police officers on both sides of the bridge and they will be shutting off traffic coming east onto the beach and opening two lanes of traffic leaving the beach.”

House said the officers would allow double lanes of traffic to leave the island in 15-minute increments and open one lane of traffic driving east onto the island whenever the buildup on Wrightsville Avenue and Eastwood Road warrants it.

“We may have a situation where we have traffic backing up on Eastwood all the way to Military Cutoff and we will just have to let that traffic come through because it would cause problems with Wilmington,” he said.

Leading up to Saturday evening there will be traffic alert boards on both sides of the bridge to warn motorists of the upcoming change. The traffic signals at the intersection of Eastwood Road and Wrightsville Avenue will be blinking red and yellow Saturday evening as well.

Despite their best efforts, House said he would warn flotilla patrons that there would still be congestion.

“Don’t get me wrong, there is going to be backup for sure no matter what we do,” he said. “Here we have a constriction because of the bridge and when you pour more vehicles onto it you will have a problem.”

Kerry Cross, resident engineer with the NCDOT, said there was no way to open all four lanes of the bridge at this point in time due to the stage of the construction on the bridge’s metal grid.

“We have been doing construction on the metal grid decking and it would be considered hazardous to the public to open that up and we absolutely cannot allow that,” Cross said.

American Bridge Company, the contractor for the bridgework, is pushing to have all four lanes open by the end of March, Cross said. The rest of the bridgework is not expected to be complete until the fall of 2013 because of projects that were added to the contract like adding modified concrete latex decking like is found on the Causeway and Salisbury street bridges, and the painting of the metal grid. 

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