Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Lanes and intersection closures, expansions for next phase of CFM Bridge construction

Westbound lanes of the bridge will close Monday at 7 p.m. for crews to begin construction on April 9 of the final leg of the preservation project. (Port City Daily/Shea Carver)

WILMINGTON — As the second phase of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge preservation project gets underway Monday night, the state transportation department is planning to expand some lanes and close others in areas affected by detours.

The routes are the same as they were for eastbound lane closures, only reversed. Drivers exiting the city into Brunswick County will need to cross Isabel Stellings Holmes Bridge or use North College Road to I-40 to U.S. Highway I-140.

Coming back into Wilmington, travelers can utilize either Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, Isabel Holmes, I-140 and I-40.

At 7 p.m. on April 8, Southern Road and Bridge crew members — contracted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation for $7 million to oversee construction — will close Cape Fear Memorial’s two westbound lanes.

Work will begin on April 9; crews are replacing all stringers and decks for 12 bays of the bridge. The lanes will remain shuttered until the project is completed, anticipated by mid-May. 

Ahead of the westbound lane closures, NCDOT is preparing to safely detour drivers.

“Our footprint for the work is very large, is in different directions throughout the city,” Trevor Carroll, NCDOT maintenance engineer for division 3, told the media Tuesday. “We have a lot of signs to change, signs to remove, signs to cover. And then of course, we have our pavement markings that need to be adjusted as well.”

Travel across the city during the preservation project has been more congested in certain areas, such as College Road and Third Street. Commercial trucks have been instructed to take Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway to Shipyard Boulevard and College Road to enter and exit the port since trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds are prohibited along Third Street. 

Starting Thursday, April 4, NCDOT will add triple turn lanes at the North College Road and MLK stop light; it normally has two. This will give vehicles traveling north more options to move onto MLK in an attempt to improve traffic flow to reach Isabel Holmes. 

Crews will be working to finish the College Road and MLK lane additions by April 5. 

“We really wanted to implement this ahead of time, so travelers could get accustomed to that change,” Carroll said.

Changes have also been made to U.S. Highway 421. The two right turn lanes onto Isabel Holmes from 421 North — in place during eastbound lane construction — have been retrofitted to one right-lane turn, as it was pre-project. 

Come April 8, crews will close the left-turn lane on Highway 421 South that leads onto Isabel Holmes; it will remain in place throughout the project.

“We’re going to ask all of our travelers to go down south and utilize Cape Fear Memorial Bridge to come into Wilmington,” Carroll said. “We want to maximize those greenlight times.”

The shift will affect more than 20,000 vehicles that travel south on 421 daily. He added the team ran “several different models on that particular movement” to plan the best path forward. 

“We have a lot of traffic coming from downtown and from MLK Parkway that are really going to be channelized across Isabel,” Carroll said. 

The City of Wilmington and NCDOT will continue to monitor traffic signals along Third and Dawson streets to ensure vehicular flow is steady and not congesting the area more than necessary.

Also on April 8, barricades will be put back in place along Third Street. Left turns will be prevented at the intersections of Queen, Church, Nun and Orange streets, as it was during the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge’s eastbound lane closures.

NCDOT recommends drivers increase traveling distance from other vehicles and decrease speed, while being more mindful of traffic patterns during the next month and a half.

Southern Road Bridge contractor will receive a half-million-dollar bonus if it completes the job by NCDOT’s May 23 deadline. The eastbound lanes opened five days ahead of schedule after being closed Jan. 26. 

NCDOT leaders noted it was too soon to determine if the westbound lane construction will move as expediently. However, departmental engineer Joshua Pratt said “the nature of the work is repetitive,” and with crews having a process in place from the eastbound closure, it could increase production rates.

Upon completion, the preservation project will make for a smoother ride for vehicles. 

“This new grid deck is designed in a specific pattern and with specific components to improve friction,” Carroll said, adding it should alleviate “slickness” during rain as well.

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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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