Surf City Bridge replacement project to start in October

Surf City Bridge replacement project to start in October
The original floating pontoon bridge. (Source: Missiles and More Museum)
The original floating pontoon bridge. (Source: Missiles and More Museum)
A look at the planned new bridge onto Topsail Island. (Source: NCDOT)
A look at the planned new bridge onto Topsail Island. (Source: NCDOT)

SURF CITY, NC (WECT) - On a chilly day in November of 1955, hundreds gathered and watched as the ribbon roping off the new Swing Bridge onto Topsail Island was cut. The Sunday Star News wrote about the dedication the next day, describing what it took to build the new $420,000 bridge.

"It was just very exciting, I mean the largest thing around anywhere for us, I guess really the first ribbon cutting too," recalls Doug Medlin, who was about 6 years old at the time. "It was just very exciting."

The bridge was a big part of growing up on the island. Medlin remembers going to church fish fries under it and playing on top of it.

"At that time, the bridge tender's house was on top of the bridge so you would go up there and ride the bridge around and back around. It moves slow. When it first stops and they have to turn it in, it did wobble so you are standing there and the whole thing is shaking a little bit," said Medlin with a laugh. "Something different I guess, but you know as a child it was something fun to do."

Before the bridge was built, those living on the island had to travel across a floating pontoon bridge to get on and off the island. Medlin said it was run by a system of cables that would pull it out of the way, then wedge it back in place every single time a boat came through. He said it was a very time-consuming process, and the new, much quicker swing bridge was something many were excited about, including his father.

"It was just something that was needed," Medlin said. "He always looked for growth and in order to at that time grow, he felt we really needed a different bridge because the old one really did take a while."

The swing bridge did bring growth, and over the years it has become somewhat of an iconic symbol for those visiting the beach.

"It means paradise, it means vacation, it means happy memories, we hear about people that have contests and the first kid in the car that sees the bridge will get an ice cream cone," said Allan Libby, the tourism director of Surf City. "I would wager if you asked 10 visitors that come to Topsail Island, 'What is your favorite thing that comes to mind when you think about Topsail Island?' Nine of them are going to say the bridge."

This year, work will start on another new bridge - a bridge that will replace the now old swing bridge.

The project has been accelerated and the plan is for construction to begin in October 2016, according to Chad Kimes, an NCDOT Division Operations Engineer.

Kimes said the bridge will begin with a roundabout on Little Kinston Road and end with a roundabout on South New River Drive. Initial construction will include building the bridge for crews to work off of and doing foundation work.

He said the new bridge will consist of two 12-foot travel lanes and two 7.5-foot bike lanes. It will also have a 10-foot multi-use path. It is being built with those that walk to the beach in mind and a concrete barrier will separate them from traffic.

Kimes said the path is a first of it's kind for an island bridge designed by NCDOT.

"As you look back on it now, we hate to see the old Swing Bridge go," Medlin said. "But, growth is still coming and we really need a new bridge."

Kimes said the Bridge Replacement Project is a five year project, however, incentives may be provided in hopes of completing the new bridge in four years.

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