Tuesday, June 25, 2024

CF Memorial Bridge repairs on schedule, officials hope to open eastbound lanes by March 30

Cape Fear Memorial Bridge’s eastbound lanes have been closed since January and will reopen by the end of this month. (Port City Daily/File)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Transportation is wrapping the first phase of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge preservation project on schedule.

READ MORE: USDOT grant to cover 50% of CFMB replacement gets boost from senators, other leaders

Wednesday, NCDOT officials announced it expects completion by March 30. According to Joshua Pratt, senior resident engineer with NCDOT, temporary barriers on the eastbound lane closure will be taken down by 7 p.m. on March 30, with the bridge opening from Brunswick County into Wilmington by midnight.

NCDOT has always maintained the first phase of the preservation project would end by March 31, with both lanes remaining open until after Azalea Festival. Then the westbound lanes will close until May for the same repair work.

NCDOT hired Southern Road and Bridge for $7.1 million to replace the bridge’s riding deck and associated stringers. According to the transportation agency, there are 12 bays to correct, with the contractor having replaced them all on the eastbound side.

“They have to clean and lubricate the wire cables and do some repair work on the rail connections for the outer rail system,” Pratt said, followed by touchup paint to help with corrosion.

The bridge’s eastbound lanes have been closed since the end of January, directing drivers to enter Wilmington via the Isabel Stellings Holmes Bridge or I-140 to I-40. It has caused traffic congestion along Third Street for travelers moving through the southern part of the county, while detouring commercial trucks to South College Road and Shipyard Boulevard to reach the ports.

In the last few weeks, Trevor Carroll, NCDOT maintenance engineer for division 3, said traffic has been heavier, specifically morning travel.

“We contribute it to people not staggering the traffic times as much as they did the first day,” Carroll said. 

Since the weather has warmed, more people are visiting the area as well, he added.

NCDOT spokesperson Lauren Haiviland told PCD last week the state agency “changed some of the signal timing to allow more green time and traffic flow” and is constantly “monitoring the detour routes, responding and removing any crashes, stranded vehicles or debris found in the travel way.”

Carroll said this will continue during westbound closures. 

The two westbound lanes will close to traffic entering into Brunswick County starting April 8. Contractors will change pavement markings and set up control devices, with the lanes closed around midnight.

“So drivers the next morning, April 9, will have to find another route if they’re going westbound,” Pratt said. 

Detours will continue to be at the Isabel Holmes or I-140; Carroll is asking motorists to start planning their routes. 

“If they need to leave minutes earlier, go ahead and start thinking about that,” he said. “We found that the driver response and the staggered travel time really helped us on the eastbound closure so we’re really asking for that same thing again for our westbound closure.”

NCDOT will hold another press conference ahead of the westbound closure to go over traffic pattern modifications at certain intersections.

“We’ve been running our simulators on our models to show us backups and travel times and really our choke points, if you will, and we’re working on those particular intersections so we can have the best travel time as possible,” Carroll said. 

The preservation project is expected to wrap by May 23.

“They’ve hit all their scheduling milestones and they’ve done well on that front,” Pratt said.

“As the work expands, the contractor has added crews and added people so that crew one can do task one, crew two can do task two,” Carroll added. “That has helped their production.”

In order to avoid peak tourist season and hurricane season, NCDOT has incentivized Southern Road and Bridge to finish the project early: $300,000 to complete the job before Memorial Day — preferably by May 23 — or $200,000 by June 28, with a $500,000 maximum bonus.

The contract also included a penalizing provision for “liquidated damages.” If Southern Road and Bridge does not finish by June 28, it will cost the contractor $6,000 per day, paid back to NCDOT, which is funding the repairs. 

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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