Access to town attractions to improve soon

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

As a result of the record high temperatures seen throughout southeastern North Carolina last weekend and the influx of visitors it brought to Wrightsville Beach, the town is working to address traffic congestion problems that arose on both sides of the Heide Trask Drawbridge. Town hall received several complaints from residents about the weekend traffic congestion on the bridge, with some having to spend up to an hour waiting in traffic. 

To plan for warm weekends before the bridge is opened to full capacity in the first week of April, Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti, town manager Tim Owens and Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House discussed possible solutions on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Cignotti said no decisions were made in the meeting, but a conference call with the North Carolina Department of Transportation was arranged for Jan. 29. Owens said that date was the earliest possible date NCDOT representatives could meet. 

Cooperation and support from the law enforcement agencies of the city of Wilmington, New Hanover County and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol would also be needed to manage traffic on the west side of the bridge, Cignotti said. 

As another consequence of the influx of visitors to Wrightsville Beach last weekend, the public works department will be conducting beach escarpment repair in the middle of the island beginning the morning of Thursday, Jan. 17. 

Citing instances where town employees noticed visitors struggling to climb the escarpment, public works director Mike Vukelich stated in an email to Owens that it was time to smooth the beach for visitor safety. The beach strand in front of Public Beach Accesses Nos. 9-11 and 24-29 are the areas Vukelich said would be repaired with the town’s front-end loader. 

Accessibility around Wrightsville Beach for bike and pedestrian traffic on the west side of the Heide Trask Drawbridge was addressed during the Jan. 16 meeting of the city of Wilmington’s Technical Coordinating Committee. The committee unanimously approved continued development of a plan for a bike crossing and pedestrian walkway underneath the mainland side of the drawbridge to connect the sidewalk on the north side of Wrightsville Avenue to Airlie Road around the Bridge Tender Marina. 

The walkway would mostly be constructed of treated wood planks with an observation deck close to the Intracoastal Waterway on the north side of the drawbridge shown in the preliminary plans. 

Mike Kozlosky, Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization executive director, said the walkway was a recommendation of the Wrightsville Sound Small Area Plan and Wilmington has already approved funding for surveying the area. Although the walkway would cross the jurisdictions of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach and New Hanover County, Kozlosky said he does not anticipate that Wrightsville Beach or the county would have to provide any funding for the project. Kozlosky said the NCDOT might provide a portion of the funding required and Wilmington would fund the rest.

Other infrastructure improvement projects currently underway around Wrightsville include the renovation of Crystal Pier and the repair of the Masonboro Island jetty. Earlier this week, workers began tearing off the railings on Crystal Pier in preparation for the 12-foot widening and 30-foot extension of the pier. The existing pier structure will remain intact and rehabilitated, and used as a platform to complete the widening and expansion. The Oceanic Restaurant will remain open throughout the construction process and the project is scheduled to be complete before the 2013 summer season. 

This week, Precon Marine dumped a load of new 14- 22-ton granite boulders on the south end jetty’s southern bank. Precon was contracted by the United States Army Corps of Engineers to complete the $4.9 million project by July 31. 

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