New bridge, old habits|Businesses, residents rejoice over opening of new bridge on road

Published 11:33 am Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Staff Writer

For businesses and some 500 families along Clark’s Neck Road, the reopening last week of a bridge across Tranter’s Creek just west of Washington was cause for celebration.
One Washington business located near the bridge is so delighted that it is offering special gifts to those residents and business owners along Clark’s Neck Road who had been cut off from easy access to Washington for nearly a year.
“We feel like we have been freed from prison,” said Clark’s Neck Road resident Cathy Fletcher, who was among those whose detour was the farthest. “We had to plan carefully for every trip to Washington.
“We are looking forward to seeing our Washington friends again,” she said.
The bridge and a segment of the road that connects U.S. Highway 264 in Washington to Grimesland Bridge Road in Pitt County had been closed since Sept. 2, 2008, so the bridge over Tranter’s Creek could be replaced.
The project contractor, Atwell Construction, opened the bridge and the closed section of the road last Tuesday.
The bridge replacement project forced a lengthy detour — of up to 11 miles — for residents who lived and customers of businesses that are located west of the bridge.
The Fletchers found themselves as close to shops and activities in Greenville as Washington. And the trip to Greenville was often easier than back-tracking to Washington.
Business owners on both sides of the bridge are looking forward to shoppers like the Fletchers and others cut off by the closed bridge returning to their shops and stores.
Employees of Makin’ Tracks, a gas station and convenience store at the corner of U.S. 264 and Clark’s Neck Road, erected a sign welcoming residents back to town.
“When they closed that bridge, it put 25 percent of our business 11 miles away rather than yards away,” said F. Ray Moore Jr., owner of Makin’ Tracks. “For the families on that road, it changed their lifestyles and their shopping habits.”
To help lure his customer’s back, Makin’ Tracks sent coupons to those with addresses on Clark’s Neck Road and is offering a variety of specials to them.
“It’s like a grand reopening,” Moore said.
Makin’ Tracks wasn’t the only business affected by the bridge closure.
Employees and campers at Tranter’s Creek Resort and Campground’s approximately 220 camping sites faced a 20-minute detour to Washington for supplies.
And some customers were reluctant to visit the campground while the bridge was closed.
“We’re ready to have a party — on the bridge,” Megan Lovas, an employee at Tranter’s Creek Resort and Campground, said in a recent interview.
Crowell Pope, owner of Clark’s Neck Mini Storage, said he’s looking forward to increased business now that the bridge is open.
“I’m glad to see it open,” he said. “I hope we can get some new traffic in here.”
Frequently, a bottleneck would develop as drivers tried to turn onto and off of U.S. 264 to and from Grimesland Bridge Road, making the trip to town particularly onerous.
This often deterred people from driving into Washington.
“I didn’t go to town as much when the bridge was closed,” said retiree J.T. Andrews.
Business owners like Moore hope that this will change now that trips to town are much easier.
“Greenville’s loss is our gain,” he said.