The area near Greenfield Lake where four roads converge – Carolina Beach Road, Burnett Boulevard, Third Street, and South Front – is a well-traveled passageway in and out of downtown Wilmington.
Department of Transportation officials announced last week that they’ll hold a public meeting to talk about an improvement project that will require the shutdown of part of Third Street for six to nine months. And officials with the DOT are working hard to strike that delicate balance between meeting the immediate needs of the public and project efficiency.
Before DOT Program Manager Amanda Glynn even begins to describe the reasons behind the closure, she acknowledges the potential hassle for the public.
“We understand that this is going to be an inconvenience. A lot of people are going to have to drive around. But we’re hoping that the cost savings, the time savings, the less confusion will help people – to get that public buy-in.”
This is a project that has been a long time coming for Glynn.
“This culvert was damaged in storms that came through – Floyd, Fran, and since that point, we’ve been maintaining it. It’s gotten to the point where we have available funding that we can put toward this project. I, personally, have been pushing this replacement since at least 2006. So this is wonderful to see the project come to fruition for us.”
Because of the damage to the culvert, major storms can overwhelm the system and are more apt to cause flooding. But building a new system is more complicated than just popping in a new pipe. The sheer magnitude of the project is, by itself, daunting.
“We are going to have to build it in place, which is pouring concrete, tying steel. It takes a good bit of time to form all of that up and for the concrete to cure to where it could withstand traffic loading.”
But for all that work, the DOT’s Amanda Glynn is anticipating more than just improvements to water flow. There are some recreational upgrades planned.
“We are going to have sidewalks. We’re going to have bike lanes. There is a signed bike route that goes along South Front that we don’t have an actual lane for right now but after this project, we will.”
And that curve around the intersection at the corner of Greenfield Lake Park - what Glynn calls “the wiggle” – will straighten out.
How the public reacts to this proposal will play a significant role in how the DOT proceeds. Amanda Glynn says she’s hopeful that people will come to the public workshop on Thursday to learn about the project and voice any concerns.
“Another thing we want people to consider, is that if we are able to close that section and people can detour around that - we want to show them these detour routes – if we can close that during construction, the construction will be faster and it’ll be less expensive.”
If DOT decides the needs of the public prohibit a complete shutdown of that portion of Third Street, they’ll compromise. Traffic would have to be phased differently during the work – a section at a time. And that method, while slightly less cumbersome for drivers, would cost the DOT more time and money.
On the other hand, closing Third Street between Willard and Carolina Beach Road would save around half a million dollars in construction costs, according to Glynn.
“It’s a difficult task to balance the needs of all the people with the amount of funding that is available to get this project done in a timely manner – where we are trying to stay out of the majority of hurricane season and to be re-opened by the spring. It’s a delicate balance.”
Glynn says she expects the work to get underway in the fall of 2014.
The public is encouraged to come to an informational workshop this Thursday night, April 18, 2013 – at Thalian Hall in the Wilmington City Council Chambers from 5-7 PM.
The N.C. Citizens are invited to drop in anytime during those hours and speak individually with NCDOT officials.
NCDOT will provide auxiliary aids and services under the Americans with Disabilities Act for persons with disabilities who want to participate in this public hearing. Anyone requiring special services should contact Glynn at the above phone or email address as early as possible so that arrangements can be made.