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‘I can’t wait’: Neighbors excited bridge connecting Oak Island to Southport will reopen soon

Published: Mar. 29, 2019 at 6:25 AM EDT
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Neighbors and businesses are counting down the days until the bridge connecting Oak Island to Southport will reopen after being closed for eight months of repair work.

The G.V. Barbee Sr. Bridge is scheduled to reopen on April 15, according to updates Thursday from the Town of Oak Island and N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

“We’re almost there!” the Town of Oak Island posted on social media, to which users responded with excitement.

“Besides the day my children were born, this will be the best day of my life,” one person commented.

We're almost there! NCDOT says the Barbee Bridge is on schedule to reopen April 15. #loveoakisland

Posted by Town of Oak Island on Thursday, March 28, 2019

The bridge closed in October 2018 for $15 million in construction repairs, including replacing bridge spans, a new roadway surface, and upgrading the barrier rail.

On Thursday, construction crews could be seen working on the bridge. An NCDOT spokesperson told WECT a lot more work remains to be done but the mid-April reopening is still the plan.

Residents of the South Harbour Village neighborhood, which is next to the bridge on the mainland side, expressed their relief and happiness Thursday that the re-opening is now only 2 1/2 weeks away.

Before the bridge closure, access to the nearby beach was two miles distance. With the bridge closure, the commute becomes approximately 20 miles.

“Very excited,” said resident William Baldino. “I can’t wait to go to the beach. ... I’ll definitely go over the morning that it’s open, and I’ll probably be going there every day for a few weeks. I can’t wait.”

On the other side of the bridge in Oak Island, residents are equally ready for the end of long commutes between the mainland and island.

“I think people have been highly anticipating the opening,” said Oak Island resident Mikaela Schabarum. “I think there’s been some skepticism whether or not it would really open in April and on time but now that we’ve heard it’s on track, I think people are very excited to have that bridge reopen.”

Schabarum said the detour is often fraught with traffic backups, accidents, and delays.

“If you are in Southport and you have to go to the Caswell Beach side, you have to go all the way up and around and do that loop," Schabarum said. "If you need something back in Southport, you have to drive another 40 minutes all the way back around, so it’s pretty inconvenient.”

In November 2017, the Southport Oak Island Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign called It’s Worth the Drive Go Local to support businesses cut off by the bridge closure.

“It’s going to be much easier to have access to those business on Long Beach Road and also to not have to double back every time you need to run into Southport or Caswell if you’re going the other direction,” said Schabarum.

In a March update, NCDOT said the road project was more than halfway complete.

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