City, town ask DOT to rethink bridge plans

Published 2:51 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2007

By Staff
Redesign could delay work up to two years
News Editor
Two elected bodies are asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to look at revamping its plans for replacing the bridge over Beaufort County’s Runyon Creek.
After a joint “brainstorming session” Monday, the Washington City Council and Washington Park Town Council each approved motions asking DOT to take another look at the placement of the bridge, which unites the city with Washington Park. DOT agreed in 2005 to replace the bridge, which was built in 1947.
The original design for replacing the bridge has been “in the works for a couple of years,” said Greg Purvis, a Cary-based project engineer who is handling the plans for DOT. But city and town officials will ask DOT to look at a design that would move the bridge “just a bit upstream,” said Washington Park Mayor Tom Richter.
Richter pitched a redesign aimed at improving boat access and minimizing traffic problems. The city council went along with that plan, but stipulated that any redesign must not unnecessarily interfere with existing businesses and must take into account the safeness of the current bridge.
Richter said the bridge “appeared to be pretty much a done deal” two years ago, but that he and his council wanted to offer suggestions Monday because of the longevity of the project.
Richter said he hoped a redesign would mean an “improved boat launch” and less of a slope in the bridge.
Jennette said she is concerned that a redesign could “take out two businesses that are very successful” and City Councilman Archie Jennings said it’s important for elected officials not to be “flippant” about that possibility. Jennings would amend the city’s motion to be “a bit more direct” than the one the Town Council passed.
The new bridge must be designed “so that it does not interfere with existing enterprises,” Jennings said. His amendment gained unanimous support from the city council.
Both Purvis and Richter said a redesign could delay construction of a new bridge by as long as two years. That prompted an amendment from another city official.
The current project design is estimated to cost $4.5 million, whereas a newer version would cost $5.1 million, Purvis said.
Under the current plan, people residing east of the bridge will have to drive north on Brick Kiln Road and then travel west on U.S. Highway 264 to enter Washington. If a redesign is adopted, the old bridge could potentially remain in place while the new one is being built, shortening the period drivers would have to make that detour.
Purvis said the detour, which is about two miles long, would still be put into place “just when everything is tied together” if a redesign is adopted.
Jennette also wants the redesign to be reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.