Officials must find a way to bridge the gap

Published 3:35 pm Friday, July 27, 2007

By Staff
It’s been no secret that the N.C. Department of Transportation has been working on plans to replace a bridge over Runyon Creek between Washington and Washington Park. Plans have been in the works for years.
So it was a little odd that this week groups voiced concerns about just where the bridge would be built. Washington Mayor Judy Meier Jennette was more than a little bit surprised when a consultant pulled out a “Plan B” that differed from the original plan.
The original plan would have kept the bridge where it is, but simply raised it slightly. The current grade on the east side of the river is low and tends to flood. Boaters leaving the ramps at Havens Garden have to duck to get through.
What everybody needs to understand is that no matter what happens, somebody is going to be inconvenienced.They also need to understand that the current bridge will have to be replaced.
If we agree that sooner or later the bridge needs to be replaced, let’s think of the options.
Let’s say Option A is the original plan. The permanent losers will be some residents of Washington Park who are used to turning out the first street there and taking a left onto River Road to get to Washington. That won’t be an option because the new bridge will be higher and that intersection would be blocked.
The temporary losers in Option A would be anybody who travels over the existing bridge. A down side is for upwards of a year the option for a driver going west on River Road would be to head north on Brick Kiln Road, west on U.S. Highway 264, south on Hudnell Street, making a detour of two miles. And we are talking about hundreds if not thousands of cars a day. The good thing is it wouldn’t directly impact any businesses. For Jennette, another good point is that a detour would clearly require DOT to erect a traffic signal at U.S. 264 and Brick Kiln.
Now let’s look at Option B. That would be to move the new bridge to the north slightly. The good point is the existing bridge could stay while the new one is being built. The bad side is it could eat away at some of the parking at Havens Garden and would likely require the condemnation of the old Park Boat facility on the Washington Park side of the creek. Another bad side is it could prohibit the use of the boat ramps there for some time, but that could happen under any scenario.
A Plan C could move the bridge even farther north, but that could spell the end to a popular restaurant there or at the very least eat up the bulk of its parking. The boat ramps could be replaced, in theory, with new ones on the Pamlico River, but that would bite into the existing park and would quite probably call for the elimination of a popular picnic shelter there. It would also clearly require the purchase of the Park Boat company land.
We’re also quite sure there is a Plan D that we can’t think about. It may be the Plan D that we need to consider.
In that vein, Jennette plans to meet with City Manager James C. Smith today to start the next phase of the process. And that next phase needs to be an open and honest discussion.