BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A bridge project in Brunswick County is becoming more than just a bump in the road for locals. It could put them out of business.
The NC Department of Transportation is moving ahead with an $8.5 million dollar project to fix nine of our local bridges.
One of those bridges is located along Midway Road in Bolivia. It's a busy thoroughfare that is used by Southport and Oak Island residents, along with tourists.
The project requires the NCDOT to shut down the road and residents along Midway have asked for a onsite bridge to be built while the other bridge is replaced. However, NCDOT officials said this project doesn't qualify for that.
"This is almost like a slap in the face that we're not prepared to endure," said Mariah Shephard. Shephard and her husband own Midway Seafood and said the NCDOT is not handling the project the way they should.
According to Shephard and other business owners, the NCDOT did not send letters or notices to residents and businesses along Midway Road. According to the NCDOT, notices were only sent out to adjacent properties in 2011.
"It's pretty much going to lock us out of business as we know it," said Henry Burkert, who owns Greenlands Farmstore.
Burkert said not only will this project put them out of business, but it will also create a traffic nightmare.
The NCDOT has plans for a detour route that will take drivers at least ten miles around Midway Road. Burkert and Shephard both said drivers aren't going to be willing to drive at least twenty miles out of their way to buy from their shops.
"Most people are pressed for time," said Heather Burkert, who is Henry's wife. "Their hearts would be in it. I really believe our customer's hearts would be in it, but time wise, the cost of gas, it's a lot to ask."
The NCDOT and the Burkerts met on Thursday afternoon for a special meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to express concerns and possibly come to an agreement or compromise on the project. They were unsuccessful.
Officials with the NCDOT said their hands are tied. The project will go on as planned and without a temporary bridge.
The project is slated to take 180 days, according to the NCDOT. If the contractor cannot complete the project in that time, officials said there will be a $1,000 a day fine until the project is completed.
Concerns were also voiced about emergency services while the bridge is closed. According to the NCDOT, an email and letter were sent to the sheriff's office, EMS and surrounding agencies asking for input on the project. The NCDOT said they did not hear back from anyone.
The NCDOT said the bridge is in horrible condition. Out of 100 points, the bridge on Midway Road has six points, according to a scaling system used by the agency.
The Burkerts are upset that the state of North Carolina does not offer monetary compensation for businesses affected by projects. Officials said at Thursday's meeting that the compensation issue is out of their control.
"This is going to put us out of business," said Burkert. NCDOT officials said they are doing the best they can to minimize the impact this project will have on not only businesses, but also with the environment and local residents.
The Burkerts presented officials with a petition on Thursday afternoon showing the community support for the local businesses. They managed to get more than 40 signatures in about a week. The NCDOT said they will put it in its records.
Officials are aiming for Jan. 2013 to begin the project, but they could not promise that start date.
At this point, most are asking for the contractor to be mindful of the summer season. Burkert said her busiest season is fall.
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