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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Wrightsville Beach’s plan for Causeway Drive would remove parking, add bike lanes

If NCDOT funding is procured, Wrightsville Beach could revamp causeway drive with bike lanes running in each direction on Causeway Drive. (Port City Daily/Courtesy Wrightsville Beach)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH — Beach town leaders have a plan to revamp parts of Causeway Drive, involving a red-tape request to the N.C. Department of Transportation. 

At the board of aldermen meeting last week, the town deliberated on improvements to Causeway Drive. The conceptual plan would eliminate on-street parking, narrow the lanes, and provide 5-foot extended shoulders from Seacrest to Island drives for a bike path. 

READ MORE: Wrightsville Beach grants itself ability to tow cars on Lumina, more parking changes afoot

“The only time DOT will contemplate doing this is when they resurface,” Town Manager Tim Owens told Port City Daily. “So we’re asking to get on their five-year resurfacing program.”

Roadway projects that are selected for the NCDOT’s Highway Maintenance Improvement Program’s five-year plan are those that the department considers high-priority. While not a guarantee, such a designation makes it more likely NCDOT will swoop in and use money from the State Highway Fund to handle a project. 

Hank Miller, Wrightsville Beach Mayor pro tem, is the town’s representative on the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the regional planning group tasked with gatekeeping high-dollar transportation funds in the Cape Fear region. 

Presenting the Causeway Drive plan to the Wrightsville Beach board, Miller said all the town needed to do is send a formal letter to NCDOT, asking to be placed on the five-year plan. 

NCDOT, in a perfect world, would then actualize the town’s Causeway Drive conceptual plan at the time the department moves in to resurface the roads. 

“It could be one year. It could be five,” Owens said. “It’s just hard to tell.”

Miller told the board that bike paths were an amenity of high demand. The pandemic exposed the need for a more streamlined bike route from the Heide Trask Draw Bridge to Banks Channel, and this concept could make the beach more traversable, Miller said. 

What’s more, bike paths are all the rage in the eyes of the funding gatekeepers, he added. 

“The number one thing that’s getting funded is?” Miller asked the room at the board meeting. “Let’s all say it: Bike paths.”

He continued: “It’s not the bridge across the Cape Fear River. It’s not the things that are needed. It’s the bike paths. That’s what sells.”

Although the presentation was for board discussion, not a public hearing, locals who showed up were allowed to voice their opinions. 

“Do we lose our parking spots on Causeway?” one man in the crowd asked Miller. 

Miller responded: “That’s the plan.” 

“Because people are opposed to that,” the man shot back. 

“O.K., that’s why we’re here,” Miller said. 

A woman in the crowd spoke out with the opposite stance, telling the board stories of fearing for her safety as she transported her young child via bike through the beach town’s road system.

If adopted as is, the Causeway plan would remove six parking spots on the road front, and a handful of spaces in front of Seapath Yacht Club, which Miller said the owner had been lobbying the town to remove already for some time. 

“The motion I’d like to make is, let’s get into the freaking queue,” Alderman Ken Dull said. 

The board unanimously voted to give Miller the go-ahead to send a letter to NCDOT with the hope of getting the plan on the state’s radar. 

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