Bridge underpass coming next year

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lumina News file photo 

The Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Advisory Committee has approved funding for a boardwalk bridge under the Heide Trask Drawbridge as well as extension of the mutiuse path along Eastwood Road.

Pedestrians and cyclists crossing Wrightsville Avenue at the Heide Trask Drawbridge will see infrastructure improvements in 2014 with the extension of the multiuse path along Eastwood Road and a boardwalk bridge underneath the drawbridge on the mainland side, connecting the multiuse path with Airlie Road under the bridge. 

On Wednesday, May 29, the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Advisory Committee approved the allocation of a total of just more than $2 million worth of federal Surface Transportation Program Direct Attributable (STP-DA) funds that became available when the WMPO was reclassified as a Transportation Management Agency in July 2012. 

Other than the pathway underneath the Heide Trask Drawbridge, which was allotted $560,000 for construction, projects approved included: intersection improvements at Wrightsville Avenue and Greenville Avenue; bike lanes along Harper Avenue in Carolina Beach; a multiuse path along Old Fayetteville Road in Leland; the widening of Main Street in Navassa; and various improvements by WAVE Transit. 

For the pathway underneath the Heide Trask Drawbridge, Wilmington superintendent of parks and downtown services, Amy Beatty, said the project would be included in the extension of the multiuse path along Eastwood Road that currently ends west of Boca Bay restaurant. Kimley-Horn and Associates design consulting firm was assigned the multiuse path expansion and would also complete the design of the bridge underpass. 

“We are going to ask city council to accept these [STP-DA] funds at the July 9 meeting and after that we will ask the engineer to roll this project into [the multiuse path] design so it will be done all at one time,” Beatty said in a telephone interview on June 4. “There is a lot of coordination with this one especially because these are such highly trafficked intersections.”

In addition to the bridge underpass, which will make the crossing from Wrightsville Avenue to Airlie Road safer, Beatty also said two crosswalks will be installed nearby.

“We are going to put a crosswalk in near the Scotchman to get cyclists over to the north side of Wrightsville (Ave.) so that sets them up to utilize [another] new crosswalk at the intersection of Wrightsville and Eastwood that we will put in as part of that new trail project,” she said. “The outcome of the project is twofold — one, it facilitates safer movement for cyclists travelling across the drawbridge … and it improves safety at Wrightsville Avenue and Airlie Road since we have had some pedestrian accidents there.” 

Construction on the multiuse path and the drawbridge underpass will begin and end in 2014, and Beatty said there would be no interference with the ongoing renovation of the drawbridge that is scheduled to conclude in the spring of 2014. 

Although this is the first year the WMPO was able to tap into the nearly $3 million worth of STP-DA funds it could receive every year, WMPO executive director Mike Kozlosky said in a telephone interview on June 4 it may be the last year the funds are available in this way because of North Carolina General Assembly House Bill 817. The bill’s primary sponsor is Nathan Ramsey, R-Buncombe County, and its current language would lump STP-DA funds into the total needs figure for each of North Carolina’s 14 transportation districts. What the WMPO and municipalities within the district would rather see is the maintenance of the system that allocated more of the STP-DA funds to districts that contain a federally classified TMA like the WMPO. 

“The STP-DA dollars will continue to be there for the planning organizations that are Transportation Management Agencies because they are earmarked; but we are seeking to exempt those funds from the division’s needs, therefore allowing additional funds to come to those divisions that do include TMAs,” Kozlosky said. “Based on the legislation introduced it would be an equal share across the 14 divisions of N.C.; with the STP-DA funds being exempt there are approximately $3 million annually that could be utilized by Wilmington, Jacksonville or any of the RPOs (Rural Planning Organization) in the division.”

Currently H817 has passed the House and is in the Senate Committee on Finance after passing the first Senate reading in May. 



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