Independence Boulevard extension put on hold, city council at odds
Elected officials from around the area recently decided to put the Independence Boulevard extension project on hold. (Source: WECT)
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -
Elected officials from around the area recently decided to put the Independence Boulevard extension project on hold.
The Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to send a letter to the NCDOT requesting that they temporarily stop work on the extension project, according to Mike Kozlosky, Executive Director of the WMPO.
Kozlosky said that vote came at the June 25 meeting of the WMPO. The organization includes elected leaders from around the area including two members of the Wilmington City Council, Laura Padgett and Earl Sheridan.
In a heated email exchange some Wilmington City Council members voiced their displeasure at the vote.
"This action thoroughly disgusts me. This is not leadership at any level. This is blatant disregard for the well-being and health of our city," wrote Wilmington City Council member Charlie Rivenbark in an email to the rest of council.
Rivenbark wasn't the only one concerned.
"Taking this action without discussion or consultation with the entire Council is shameful and unethical," wrote Neil Anderson in the same email chain.
Anderson said the issue should be debated in a public forum.
"It may turn out that five council members hate it and it goes down. That's fine, but I think we ought to have the debate and I think the public ought to be part of it," Anderson said.
Laura Padgett responded to Rivenbark writing in an email, "While I agree and it is stated in the letter, that a cross-city roadway is needed, it should be appropriately designed and the current plan is not."
Rivenbark thinks the project is necessary and should be modified until appropriate.
"If we don't like the plan they've offered up, we need to at least be at the table, and keep pushing for what we feel like we can live with, but we can't just stop it," said Rivenbark in an interview later. "We can't just walk away from the plan and hope that the traffic problems don't ever disappear."
He said the council should have say over whether or not the project continues.
"At least there should have been some discussion of some magnitude. This is a $152 million project. This is big," Rivenbark said.
The council member elaborated that he believes traffic congestion has become an issue in the city.
"I'm tired of waiting through three or four light cycles at a stoplight on these corners," Rivenbark said.
Padgett declined to comment on-camera for this story. She said she will discuss the issue at the next meeting of the Wilmington City Council in August.
Earl Sheridan could not be reached Friday for comment on this story.