WILMINGTON – Since work began on the RiverLights development, River Road has been re-routed and repeatedly closed. The current closure may last at least another month.
According to Don Bennet, Wilmington’s traffic engineer, River Road’s new path was negotiated with RiverLights developers prior to the voluntary annexation in 2009. Developers paid the city $2.75 to move about 2 miles of roadway inland as part of an agreement negotiated in part by attorney Michael Lee, allowing RiverLights to be developed along the bank of the Cape Fear River.
However, Bennet said safety and drainage issues were the main factors in the new route.
“The reasoning at the time was that the old River Road cut through low points in the natural drainage features and topography of sand ridges in that area. Moving the roadway also moved high volume and high-speed traffic away from the river area and its environment,” Bennet said.
The quality of the original road was another issue.
“There were also subgrade issues in this area that were reflecting in the pavement. As River Road was likely no more than a paving of a prior rural dirt/sand path, it is probably no formal soils engineering was performed. The new roadway, its drainage, and all features were fully engineered to current standards creating a much safer and longer lasting roadway,” Bennett said.
Bennet also added that the new route allowed improved connectivity.
“It also facilitated the construction of a connection to Lorraine Drive, providing alternate access from the Silva Terra neighborhood, which prior only had access to Carolina Beach Road via Silver Lake, Horn and Silva Terra,” Bennet said.
The original River Road, known for a time as Old River Road, will be removed where it isolated marshland from the tidal river in order to restore the tidal flow to the wetlands. Bennett added that some portions of Old River Road could become part of neighborhood roadways. It is also possible portions of the road could be reused as a multiuse trail, Bennett added.
River Road was initially closed to disconnect the Old River Road. More recently, the newly constructed bridge over a manmade lake in the RiverLights developments was closed after cracks appeared in the concrete.
According to Jim Henry, vice president of operations for RiverLights, the bridge work was being done by Sanford Contractors. RiverLights’ deadline for Sanford to finish the bridge work is March 25.
Henry also said that despite “Road Closed” signs, the Marina Village area is still open, as indicated by signs added to the intersection of Independence Boulevard and River Road.
Chris Brown, an engineer and assistant vice president of bridge construction for Sanford Contractors, did not return calls or emails about a specific completion date.
On the map: RiverLights bridge on River Road.
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