The Heide Trask Drawbridge will shrink to two lanes of traffic at the end of September while bridge renovation contractor American Bridge completes maintenance on the northern two lanes.
As of Wednesday, the week’s scheduled overnight closures from Sunday, Sept. 8 to Wednesday, Sept. 11 were all used to clean and repaint the structural steel on the drawbridge.
While North Carolina Department of Transportation Resident Engineer Kerry Cross said he had hoped not all of the closures would have to be used, an issue with American Bridge’s industrial vacuum, called a reclaimer, caused the work to be delayed.
“We were anticipating that we may have been able to finish this particular sequence last night but the … big vacuum broke down, slowed the operation and they had to do some hand grinding,” Cross said.
Cross said the only future overnight closures he knows of now will occur at the end of September for the lane configuration during a single night as well as multiple overnight closures for the replacement of the bridge’s center and tail span locks.
To mitigate the issues of traffic buildup during the hourly bridge openings when the bridge traffic is reduced to two lanes in October, the town of Wrightsville Beach and the NCDOT will hold a meeting with the United States Coast Guard in the coming weeks to address the issue.
The opening schedule of the bridge for maritime traffic is regulated by the USCG and per a citizen’s request at the joint NCDOT and town meeting on Aug. 22, the town will ask to lessen the number of times it is required to open.
With the height and width constraints on the area of the Intracoastal Waterway underneath the bridge due to American Bridge’s equipment, Cross said the Coast Guard has already been accommodating to the project.
“The Coast Guard has made a lot of exceptions for this job with the change in the vertical clearance and horizontal clearance,” he said. “I’m not quite sure how that will go but it never hurts to ask.”