Wednesday, February 1, 2023

NCDOT plans August groundbreaking for Eastwood and Military Cutoff overpass project

The Drysdale Drive project is the third layer in NCDOT’s Military Cutoff Road Extension that began in 2017. The total cost for the extension is $95.5 million; the Military Cutoff-Eastwood interchange’s two phases will total $38.5 million. (NCDOT). 

WILMINGTON — First steps on the four-lane interchange connecting Military Cutoff and Eastwood roads were given the greenlight Monday to start next month. 

The North Carolina Department of Transportation awarded the $7.2-million contract to extend Drysdale Drive to Chatham Civil Contracting of Siler City, the same company constructing the Commerce Drive Extension in Jacksonville, N.C.. 

The Drysdale Drive project is the third layer in NCDOT’s Military Cutoff Road Extension that began in 2017. The total cost for the extension is $95.5 million; the Military Cutoff-Eastwood interchange’s two phases will total $38.5 million. 

The intersection’s congestion is notorious — Military Cutoff has an F-rating for level of service. Eastwood is a main route to Wrightsville Beach while Military Cutoff is lined with businesses, including the Mayfaire shopping center, with more to come. 

The NCDOT’s planning documents show Eastwood Road had a daily average of 22,000 cars in 2015 while Military Cutoff Road clocked 41,000. By 2035, the former is expected to increase to 39,000 and the latter 64,000.

NCDOT Division 3 spokesperson Lauren Haviland assured the project will not make traffic worse during construction. 

“The first phase will have minimal impacts as the connector road is being built on a new location,” Haviland said. 

The Drysdale Drive Extension phase sets up an alternate route to divert drivers during construction and relieves pressure on the future interchange. It is slated for completion in two years. 

“The final phase will utilize the road built in the first phase to help mitigate [traffic] impacts,” Haviland said. 

Phase two will handle the intersection itself, to become a single-point urban interchange. NCDOT will remove the signal at the Military Cutoff and Eastwood intersection and replace it with an Eastwood Road overpass crossing Military Cutoff. Ramps placed very close to the bridge will accommodate turning traffic. According to NCDOT, the interchange will not need much more land than a conventional intersection.

Currently funded with the remaining $31 million NCDOT will start acquiring rights-of-way in 2023, with construction slated for 2025. 

The second phase was supposed to begin construction this year, but was pushed back due to NCDOT cash flow issues. 

“Financial challenges the department faced a few years ago due to a variety of circumstances, including storm recovery and the impacts of Covid-19, had minimal impacts on these projects,” Haviland said. 

The projects’ construction costs are federally funded with an 80/20 split, federal and state respectively. 

In April 2021, the City of Wilmington set aside $612,000 for the interchange’s aesthetic enhancements. That funding will cover a sandstone-colored stain on the bridge, support beams, powder-coated railings, shadowbox bridge barriers, decorative lighting, black powder-coated mast-arm signal poles and decorative walls.

Construction on the extension of Military Cutoff, which went through a three-year widening in the 2000s, began in January 2017. To improve traffic flow, NCDOT is working on elongating Military Cutoff to U.S. 17 in Wilmington — a 4-mile addition expected to finish in 2023. 


Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com 

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