Bridge project could affect hurricane evacuation route - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Bridge project could affect hurricane evacuation route

Concerns are looming about a new project schedule that could affect a local hurricane evacuation route. Concerns are looming about a new project schedule that could affect a local hurricane evacuation route.

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) –North Carolina Department of Transportation officials have hit a bump in the road when it comes to a major bridge project in the area.

The DOT has already signed off on the project that will renovate nine bridges, including seven in Brunswick County and two in Pender County.

According to DOT officials, the contractor has decided to fix three bridges that need the most work. Two of the bridges are located along Green Swamp Road and one is located along Midway Road in Brunswick County.

However, the DOT has run into a problem with Green Swamp Road. The soil beneath the bridge is not suitable for the new design. As a result, the contractor must find a new design for the bridge.

According to DOT, if the new design is "too complex" the contractor will have no choice but to move ahead with the Midway Road Bridge.

Last month DOT officials met with locals regarding their concerns over the Midway project. In order to fix the bridge, the DOT must shut down all of Midway and reroute traffic around the connecting road.

Locals have already expressed concerns about businesses being shut down for at least six months and that is why the DOT promised them they would aim to start the Midway project in January 2014 but now there is a new concern.

If workers decide to move ahead with Midway, it will begin sometime around August 2013, according to officials. August marks hurricane season as well as peak tourist season in our area.

Another problem is that Midway Road is considered a secondary hurricane evacuation route.

According to Brunswick County Emergency Services, Midway is one of a few hurricane evacuation routes in the county. NC 211, 133 and 87 also serve as evacuation routes, but these roads tend to flood quickly in past years compared to Midway Road.

EMS Director Anthony Marzano told that from an EMS standpoint he does not foresee any issues with completely shutting down Midway. However, when it comes to evacuation routes Midway has proved to be a reliable exit road because it does not flood as easily as the other routes.

Marzano also said that due to an email glitch in the system, Brunswick County officials were unaware of the bridge projects. It wasn't until recently that they found out the DOT would be doing work and shutting down area roads. Now, officials and elected leaders are trying to play catch up on the project.

Right now, DOT officials are waiting to hear from the contractor on the new design. As soon as they hear they will be able to make a decision on whether or not they will begin work on Midway in the summer.

The Midway Road project is expected to take about six months at least.

DOT officials need to complete all nine bridges by November 2015.

Brunswick County Commissioner Marty Cooke told he has some concerns about the road closure as well.

Brunswick County is unique because it is not only dealing with severe weather, but they also have the nuclear plant to worry about when it comes to evacuations.

Cooke said he has a number of concerns when it comes to public safety. He thinks closing Midway Road completely would make it hard for people to get back into the local communities.

Cooke has reached out to Rep. Frank Iler and Sen. Bill Rabon for help on making sure this project does not put people's lives in danger.

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