DOT admits communication failure; more bridge closures to come

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Submitted: Mon, 10/01/2012 - 9:00pm
Updated: Tue, 10/02/2012 - 5:13pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The outrage continues after a failure to notify the public about closing the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge this weekend led to a Cape Fear “Carmageddon.” Today the Department of Transportation admitted to a major breakdown of communication.

Saturday’s traffic jam in downtown Wilmington and beyond left the tempers of many drivers boiling over. However with many more closures planned in the coming weeks the DOT says that drivers will just have to tap their brakes.

“There’s no blame to be placed,” NCDOT Construction Engineer Jackson Provost said. “I think the biggest thing is that the department, we had a lot of traffic to deal with, and we’re just going to have to get the word out to the public to try and avoid this area.”

When the DOT closed the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge it says it had a plan to re-route traffic to Shipyard Blvd. to College Road to MLK Parkway and to the Isabel Holmes Bridge.

“I think the biggest thing is there is just too much traffic congestion on the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and trying to put it on the Isabel Holmes Bridge is over capacity,” Provost said. “It’s a situation that we definitely don’t want to have, but we don’t have any choice here in this matter.”

Bottlenecks along 3rd Street and on US 421 and US 74/76 quickly turned roads into parking lots; a situation the DOT says it can only live and learn from.

“We realized from this weekend that there are little bottlenecks or places where the traffic is choked down,” DOT Resident Engineer Wayne Currie said. “We’re going to look at it and see what we can do to try and get two lanes of traffic flowing throughout this detour.”

While more work is planned, engineers say this exposed an even larger need.

“Another bridge would be great, but in the meantime we’ve got two bridges, and we’re trying to keep them operational and keep traffic flowing also,” Currie said.

The bridge will be closed at overnight tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday and overnight Oct. 10 and 11. to prepare for work that will be done from 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12 through 5 a.m. Monday, Oct. 15, when the bridge will be closed all weekend.

The DOT says a signed detour will direct motorists entering or leaving Wilmington on US 17 Business, US 76 East or US 421 South to use Isabel Holmes Bridge while the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is closed.


  • Guest 4545 says:

    Why aren’t our local state reps Rabon and Goolsby et al asking NCDOT the tough questions. And where is Baseball Bill Saffo during all this. Someone should also talk to NHCSO; BCSO; WPD and NCSHP and see what they have to say. Noted LE agencies were probably told to stay away from the area it’s crowded.

  • John says:

    I’m sorry but Mr. Provost is an idiot… For one you are just now realizing there are bottlenecks?? Have you seen 421 between IHB and 74/76/17 on any workday at 5pm? Also you cut off one of two arteries west of town, and don’t publicly announce such a move… You sir are an idiot… in a economy where many good intelligent people are out of work I’m amazed you have a job… WOW!… Also I was traveling over the IHB to Leland Saturday and ILM Police were directing traffic they let about 30 vehicles go from the dowtown ramp onto the bridge then got in their cars and left leaving a cluster *&*& for the rest of us to figure out… Absolutely unacceptable…

    On another note What is prohibiting the DOT from working on the CFB during night hours?? When there is far less traffic… allowing traffic to flow during the crucial hours of the day… really?? I can’t believe I have to ask this question, but Mr. Provost didn’t even know bottlenecks existed until this weekend so…

  • guesty says:

    So that means somebody will get a raise, a promotion and a bonus. No accountability necessary in government.

  • Lane Clo Shure says:

    Engineer Wayne Currie said. “We’re going to look at it and see what we can do to try and get two lanes of traffic flowing throughout this detour.”

    On Nortbound 17, just before the bridge at the exit to continue north, they could have simply moved the cones over one lane to allow two lanes to continue all the way through. Instead, Hwy 133 traffic merging from the right and lane closure merging (cutting) from the left created a standstill in the right lane. There was no reason that I could see why the left lane had to be dropped as there were 2 lanes exiting right to 17/421 North.

  • Justsaying says:

    Come again …Our DOT resident engineer…This was your first nonchalant comment “We realized from this weekend that we have LITTLE bottlenecks…” Obviously you didn’t sit in any of that traffic at those “little” bottlenecks. Please explain …if you will…how any amount of traffic could be routed thru 3rd St.? Have any of our DOT engineers even looked at this situation in REAL time…It is a much greater problem that should be recognized as such and it is by no means LITTLE. Please for future reference do no t use the LITTLE word when you speak of this enormous problem. Also, in the future, contract personnel should be told that the bridge can only be closed during the USUAL closing times of 8PM to 5AM and that it should be planned accordingly. To the NCDOT constuction engineer…On the NCDOT bridge website submitted on September 25th 2012, there is no mention in those days that are listed that the cape fear memorial bridge was going to be closed all weekend SO when you make the comment that we need to get the word out to the public and to try to avoid the area….How about doing that a few weeks before you decide to just “Nonchalantly” close the bridge without notice…Some people don’t just sit and watch TV. Someone has got to be held accountable PERIOD…..If attention is not being paid to something as important as this what else is being missed. This whole situation could have been avoided if SOMEONE would have DONE THEIR JOB!!!!!!!DO IT RIGHT NEXT TIME!!!!!! Please! Time will tell if all involved are truly listening to those that they are to be serving.

  • Cletus T Judd says:

    I just can’t understand why they did not have traffic control to help the flow. They are DOT and they have the car counts. They know how much traffic to expect. Another example of our sorry government at work. Do they have a single smart one in the bunch? If so, put them in charge and fire the other village idiots. You can hire traffic control with the savings.

  • Calm Down says:

    First of all I think this was poorly communicated and planned out but the work was necessary. The bridge was built in 1969 and there is a certain amount of maintenance that has to be done a structure that age. I suspect what they were doing could not be started and stopped and had to be completed over the course of several days.

    I think we would all be more upset if the bridge had a castrophic failure that left it closed for weeks or even worse dumped people into the Cape Fear River.

    Hopefully the DOT has learned some lessons and will communicate and plan better before the next weekend long closure.

  • Guest7687 says:

    This is the very same Wayne Currie that was responsible for the disastrous bridge painting project. He even wrote a paper about it called “Tackling a big project: Painting the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge”. Nice title. Sounds like something an eighth grader might write.

    He or the co-author took pictures of the traffic backups that happened as a result of the closings. He also talks about the fact that nighttime closures – hey genius, you closed it all weekend! – made traffic backup throughout downtown.

    He’s got no excuse. Little Bottlenecks? I’d say call over to the DOT on Division drive, and find out who his boss is. Suggest that they find someone competent to deal with the rest of whatever this project entails. They say it has something to do with electrical controls, but Wayne here says that the controls were replaced in 2007. Yet another bad install?

    Marvin (Wayne) lives south of Independence Blvd, so he likely didn’t give this mess a second thought, and didn’t have any reason to experience it over the weekend. (Source: NHC Tax records, so no “special” access was necessary to find that out)

  • Ted says:

    HOW Could you you might have seen it on something else but they didnt even now!! the dot even admited it never reached them…

  • SurfCityTom says:

    there would have been some terminations or demotions at the very least.

  • Guest2648 says:

    We don’t need another bridge. We need the 140 from 74/76 to 421 to be completed. That would ease a lot of congestion in the Leland area and take a lot of traffic off both of the bridges.

  • Citizen of the Republic says:

    Why wait until the weekend to close a bridge, divert traffic and rely on the signal system that’s designed for traffic based on two bridges being open.

    There was absolutely no Police presence directing traffic that could have improved this situation immensely.

    I don’t think Mr. Provost understands the situation based on “It’s a situation that we definitely don’t want to have, but we don’t have any choice here in this matter.”

    I would put it to Mr. Provost, that the addition of Officers directing traffic would be a step in the right direction. At least it would help intersections that are clogged with people that don’t want to wait for the next light and tie the intersections up.

    Do as much of the work as you can at NIGHT.
    Get officers directing traffic.
    leave a lane open on the Brunswick side to encourage traffic to go up to the 140 and jump on 40 back to town. It would still be faster than sitting in traffic that’s not moving for 2 hours.

    Put a little effort in your job, “Bottlenecks along 3rd Street and on US 421 and US 74/76 quickly turned roads into parking lots; a situation the DOT says it can only live and learn from”, The trouble is this has happened before, and it doesn’t appear DOT is learning anything.

    Is it possible to get a more descriptive statement other than “we’re working on the bridge”?

    Oh yes, I’m surprised there was not a marathon going on, but we’ll have that next time.

  • Vog46 says:

    But the private sector would have already soaked the taxpayers for a new bridge that didn’t require this much maintenance.

  • justin says:

    Didn’t anticipate any bottlenecks? Folks, even without the bridge closure, US74/76 is backed up every single Saturday, from the first of May through early September, and has been for the past four years. Absolute horse pucks! I’m not buying any of this, and neither should the local media. What, specifically, was accomplished this weekend on the bridge? By the looks of the CCTV cameras most of the weekend, there was a lone pickup on the bridge for the duration. Nope, I ain’t buying any of it.

  • riverfest2012 says:

    I’m surprised that there is no mention of Riverfest this weekend and the bridge closing. Great way to pump up local businesses by saying to avoid the area. Talk about SNAFU coming up for Riverfest this weekend – feeling sorry for the vendors who won’t have the business they need to wrap up the season. Maybe the mayor will take his eyes of the ball for a moment to see what he can do to help our area businesses.

  • Whatwehavehere says:

    Well, at least they ponied and apologized.

    I really have no earthly idea why folks in this state are reluctant to employ National Incident Management System tools. This was obviously a planned event by NCDOT which was very poorly communicated. If they had used the Incident Command System model (which works exceptionally well for planning complex events) they would have better communicated internally, and externally, and stakeholders and partners would have all been on the same page.

    When you see a city like Los Angeles, and “Carmaggeddon II”…get national attention, you at least know they’re following a deliberate planning strategy and getting the word out. It may not be fun, but it is coordinated. NC is still stuck in the 60’s when it comes to these things…and the right hand is continuously clueless as to what the left hand is doing.

    I’m thinking of all the really bad things that could have happened as a result of the ineptitude displayed. Let’s hope they really take this to heart…and some of the other organizations in the area could stand to look at this, too. I see this a lot around here.

    Needless, needless, needless.

  • weston says:

    A nightmare for commuters over the weekend. It reminded me of the time the bridge got stuck back in 1995; traffic was a awful. If the general public were not made aware of this; how about local EMS?

  • jj says:

    This is the mean reason we need a new bridge crossing the Cape Fear River. This was bad but could get worst. What would happen if one of the little bridges between Leland and Wilmington is damage and can’t be used? What are you going to do when they start replacing these bridges next year? Haven’t heard that have you? Better get ready that work is coming and it isn’t going to be pretty.

  • Guest1996 says:

    I saw it on the news Friday that the bridge was going to be closed!?! Why are there so many complaints?!? Anyone watch the news anymore? Besies, don’t forget…those are CONTRACT workers doing all this shutting down of the bridges, just like the paint job was!! Our true state workers have to work IN the traffic!!

  • mike guest says:

    Dont say the helicopter always flies, it doesn’t in bad weather. (and i know this first hand) When a real emergency hits this area we are all in real deep sh– if we dont straighten this mess out now. Forget the dam ballpark and build a bridge. Lets get out of the Mayberry days and move into the 21st century.

  • Guest088 says:

    The last time I checked there were two helicopters available at NHRMC. Many times they are down or not available. So…lets consider the number of sick people at one time in the tri-county region and the number of helicopters???? That ratio is off in my calculations. Suppose a patient in transient during the traffic chaos became unstable??? Lots of possibilities here. You are clearly uneducated with regard to reality EMS.

  • Guest234 says:

    I got curious Sunday, and went to the east side of the bridge. While I don’t know what they were doing or if they actually accomplished anything given the $h*%^y planning, they were working, and there were no big red and white trucks, just yellow ones.

  • Guest1971 says:

    While NHRMC is probably best in the area there is a hospital on the Brunswick County side of the river that could deal with most emergencies.

  • Guest990 says:

    This was a complete lack of planning and coordination on the part of NCDOT. Closing the bridge with downtown already congested due to construction made the situation a nightmare to say the VERY least. In the past bridge work was conducted at night to help offset the potential traffic situation. For failing to notify the public was just a bad decision. Lets think about this…The only area cardiac, OB and Trauma unit it at NHRMC and just what if a critical patient from an outlying facility needed to get there, it would NOT have been possible. Someone needs to be held accountable for this BAD decision and piss poor planning.

  • guesty says:

    …and will most likely receive a raise, promotion and a bonus.

  • Guest9743 says:

    It WOULD have been possible….they would do what they always do when there is a critically injured or extremely ill person. They use a helicopter!!!!

  • Guest111 says:

    @guest1971—Brunswick Novant Medical and Dosher Hospital are both acute care facilities in Brunswick County. However they are not a “Trauma Center”, “Cardiac Center” or “Pediatric Center”. NHRMC is the local referral center for most all critical patients in Southeast NC. Brunswick nor Dosher have the capabilities NHRMC does, such as a cath lab etc. So based on this information I would assume you would now understand the major difference.

  • Guestfellini says:

    TV/Film may cause disruption occasionally, but “Revolution” was NOT to blame for this bridge closure last weekend. Please keep your rumor-mongering to a minimum…this town has more than enough.

  • 1122121 says:

    I heard no work was actually being done to the bridge, but it was being used for a movie or TV show (Revolution). Anyone else heard that rumor??

  • Guest9743 says:

    No, nobody else heard anything like that except you…sounds like you’re just trying to get a rumor started. Oh, by the way tell us where you heard that!!

  • Guest228 says:

    First of all..The DOT is ridiculous in letting this go out of hand without the city police the way where were they?..second, drivers of Wilmington, DO NOT BLOCK INTERSECTIONS IN HEAVILY CONGESTED AREAS!! Its not going to get you there quicker and only enrage pedestrians who are not going to the same way as you are..

    I propose that everyone that lost gas in this poorly unorganized event to submit all their gas receipts to the Mayor office and the NC DOT. Gas is over 3.80 a gallon and people were not expecting to lose as much gas as they did when they left from home on saturday and sunday. I cant believe our local officials are considering building a baseball field when there is an unfinished bridge over off of 421? If this weekend wasnt a tell tale sign for you guys to get out and vote and get some people in office who can lead, then I dont know what to tell ya!

  • RIPSAW says:

    if both downtown bridges would have been closed, the problem would have been solved because the traffic would not have backed up if everyone was put on I140 at hwy421……

  • Guest007 says:

    Shouldn’t the DOT be pushing to complete the I-140 connector so alot of the traffic will avoid that bottleneck? Instead, the connector work is moving at a snail’s pace. Have they never heard of strategic planning?

  • bobo says:

    well it is like forest gump mama allways said stupid is is stupid does

  • Challengetheworld says:

    The traffic was as bad if not worse then the lastime we had to evacuate Wilmington. The overdue construction on 3rd St (that according to the powers that be…should have been complete before the last Azalea festival) made the traffic even worse. Couple that together with people blocking intersections running lights because the road was so backed up was horrendus. During the near two hours between 3rd St and the Holmes bridge, I also didn’t see anyone directing traffic or trying to somehow deal with the overload.

    We need the bypass complete and we need plans to somehow replace the bridge in the future or add another one. I do not believe anything the DOT says. This is the same DOT that was in charge of the bridge painting that caused numerous delays, that by the way, ran way past its deadline because the DOT claimed the workers said it was “too cold” in the winter to complete the painting.

  • Makesense says:

    We need a new bigger funtioning bridge, how about we come up with a way to finance that instead of a ballpark!!!

  • Dan C says:

    More importantly: Why didn’t they open the bridge back up after they discovered their mistake?

    Also, why wasn’t there anyone on the scene at the stop lights to direct the traffic. The stoplight on the south side of the bridge and the one merging the lanes were the main hold up leaving Wilmington.

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