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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.


Comment on this Story

  • Lane Clo Shure

    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.

  • justin

    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.

  • Vog46

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

  • Citizen of the Republic

    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.

  • Guest2648

    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.

  • SurfCityTom

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

  • Ted

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

  • Guest7687

    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)

  • Calm Down

    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.

  • Cletus T Judd

    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.

  • Justsaying

    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.

  • guesty

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

  • John

    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…

  • Guest 4545

    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.

  • Guest1996

    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!!

  • jj

    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.

  • weston

    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?

  • Whatwehavehere

    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.

  • riverfest2012

    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.

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