My thoughts

by Pat Bradford
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

We have a letter from a resident this week about the recent meeting held to air issues with department of transportation representatives. It was a surprising night, the meeting was not particularly well attended, certainly not the anticipated hordes of angry citizens, just the usual suspects. 

Jim Smith’s letter reminds me of the glass half full versus half empty concept. Sitting through the meeting, I was encouraged by DOT’s Karen Fussell’s responses. I would say overall the meeting was a positive one, although one or two people did come just to hear the sound of their own voices.  

Answering each concern personally, Fussell, the division engineer from New Hanover and Brunswick counties, actually listened. I was impressed by her handling of the meeting. 

Listening is a great skill that we could use more of, especially on the part of decision makers who typically come in a cursory way to any assemblage with minds already made up. Fussell, on the other hand, listened and then issued instructions on the spot to her staff gathered on the front row, on things she could immediately see resolution for or needed more information on. 

On things she could not feel confident about, like a fully opened bridge for the N.C. Holiday Flotilla she said she would try, but because of the nature of the working scheduled for that period of time she could not promise to do that. And call me crazy, but I believed her.

She seemed surprised by suggestions that to keep residents informed and thus out of needless traffic lines the DOT install a four-way camera accessible via smart phone so motorists could see current conditions up and down the intracoastal and traffic east and west of the bridge, plus have the bridge tender tweet to update openings and closings and traffic status. (Isn’t he/she pretty busy at these times?) 

Living and working in sight of the traffic lines waiting to cross the bridge has a distinct advantage in that a trip to the window tells me if I have time for a snack, one more phone call, or to make a dash for it. Then again, I try to limit my going and coming to times other than on-the-hour. A camera would be a huge plus for those who could access the feed.

Fussell didn’t belittle or dismiss any suggestions, and I came away thinking: if it is possible, she will get it done, she will implement this as well as deal with changes to relieve traffic back up which further exacerbates the issue of one lane in and one out, including bicycles and the Airlie Road left hand turns. She thoughtfully listened to the request for bicyclists to be restricted to walking their bikes over the bridge on the sidewalk and to limit Airlie Road turning to right in, right out only. Both of the suggestions would go a long way to easing the single-lane backups on the bridge because everything slows down to a stop to accommodate bicycles and those turning left onto Airlie.

On requests like lowering the speed limit on the west side of the bridge, Fussell has no magic wand. To accomplish that will first require Wilmington passing a resolution requesting the change. Same for lowering the 45 mph speed on the bridge and for a few hundred feet on the eastern side of the bridge; that requires a resolution from the Wrightsville elected officials. 

The Intracoastal Waterway is a commercial vessel corridor. Sad but true, commercial vessels take precedence over motor vehicles. You know, rock beats scissors. Commercial traffic comes first, so asking DOT to change the bridge opening times is, first of all, barking up the wrong tree. That jurisdiction is the Coast Guard’s, it is a federal waterway, but in an effort to fully address concerns, NCDOT has scheduled a meeting with the Coasties to discuss the feasibility of alternate bridge opening schedules while bridge construction is underway.  Fussell or her people arranged the meeting with the Coast Guard, which will be held on Sept. 9,  at 11 a.m. at the NCDOT facility in Castle Hayne.

For the suggestion that WB keep personnel on the west side of the bridge before back-ups occur, Fussell referred the query to Police Chief Dan House whose response was logical: he doesn’t have the manpower or budget to station officers on the bridge like that. And unless it were around the clock, wouldn’t he need a crystal ball to know when those backups were going to occur? 

Two people who have a genuine complaint, Frank Potter and Lynwood Gainey, found themselves racing home from the Myrtle Beach airport on Wednesday, Aug. 21, fully aware that they had to be at the bridge by 11:30 p.m. or they wouldn’t get home for the night. Imagine their frustration when Wilmington police officers at the bridge turned them away at 11:29 p.m. even though west-bound traffic was still coming off the beach. That one deserves looking into.

The older I get, the more I realize some people like to complain. They actually enjoy it. Hearing others complain is infectious too; griping and complaining can drag you down to that person’s level in a New York minute. And while complaints can and do make things better, they definitely need to be delivered to the right person. Complaining to someone who can’t change the situation does no good at all, only harm. 

In the Bible, King David had complaints, but he knew who to take them to. David says in Psalm 142, “I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.” 

In a perfect world will there still be complainers? “Excuse me God, could you ask the angels to sing more quietly please? And those trumpets going all the time, can we dial those back as well? And about that bright light…”

Lighten up people, you’ll enjoy life more.

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