Hearing set for Charlotte Street

Published 8:05 pm Monday, February 20, 2012

Workers make final preparations in anticipation of the Brown Street bridge opening later this week. After an inspection is completed and last-minute modifications are made, the bridge should open, according to a city official. The bridge was closed for safety reasons in 2006. Monday, the City Council will conduct a public hearing on the fate of the Charlotte Street bridge, just downstream from the Brown Street bridge. Both bridges span Jack’s Creek. (WDN Photo/Christ Prokos)

Council weighs bridge replacement or removal

Washington’s City Council will conduct a public hearing next week concerning the fate of the Charlotte Street bridge.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Monday as part of the council’s regular meeting. The council wants the public’s input on what to do with the bridge.

At its Jan. 23 meeting, the council rejected the recommendation of Allen Lewis, the city’s public-works director, to replace the Charlotte Street bridge — or remove it altogether — to improve drainage in the Jack’s Creek basin.

Lewis told the council that without replacing the existing culverts or tearing down the bridge, ongoing efforts to improve drainage farther upstream in Jack’s Creek would go “for naught.” He said the Charlotte Street bridge becomes a bottleneck when Jack’s Creek is swollen with stormwater runoff and/or floodwaters. He warned that bottleneck, during a major rainfall or hurricane, could result in significant flooding of properties adjacent to Jack’s Creek.

“Long story short, one of two things have got to take place, in my mind anyway from an engineering standpoint. We need to either replace the culverts underneath Charlotte Street, which is going to run you in the neighborhood of $800,000 to a million dollars, or take them out and open the creek up,” Lewis said then.

Mayor Archie Jennings questioned the need to do anything with the Charlotte Street bridge at present or in the near future.

“Wouldn’t it be just as reasonable while Charlotte Street is still a viable bridge to continue using it as is and address either the replacement of Charlotte Street or the taking out of Charlotte Street when it’s no longer a functioning bridge?” Jennings said then. “In other words, should we be in a big hurry to tear out a bridge that’s still working?”

“You’re one significant storm away from having flooding issues because of the Charlotte Street culverts being undersized,” Lewis replied.

The three 60-inch-diameter culverts (corrugated metal pipes) installed under the Charlotte Street bridge years ago are inadequate when it comes to handling the increased stormwater runoff in Washington, Lewis told the council at the Jan. 23 meeting. Those aging, round culverts should be replaced with four 8-foot-by-80-foot box culverts to better handle stormwater runoff and floodwaters, Lewis said.

Replacing the Charlotte Street culverts is part of the current $3.8 million construction project to improve drainage in the Jack’s Creek basin. At the Jan. 23 meeting, Mercer made a motion to have the Charlotte Street bridge part of the project removed from project. Mayor Pro Tempore Bobby Roberson seconded the motion. After the issue was further discussed, Mercer withdrew his motion. That discussion included consideration of deferring the Charlotte Street bridge part of the project.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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