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Snow's Cut Bridge Project Expected To Return To Four Lanes Soon

The Town of Carolina Beach is hopeful the contractor working on the Snow's Cut Bridge Rehabilitation Project will wrap up work and return the bridge to four lanes later this week prior to the busy Memorial Day holiday.

Managing Editor

UPDATE: All four lanes of the bridge were opened on Wednesday afternoon after the Tuesday Carolina Beach Council meeting and press time on Tuesday night. The contractor will return in the fall to work on the two northbound lanes following the busy summer season.

CAROLINA BEACH - Work on the Snow's Cut Bridge rehabilitation project is not progressing as quickly as the North Carolina Department of Transportation would like and the schedule has Carolina Beach elected officials concerned over the possibility of traffic congestion during the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday weekend.
The project is 30% behind schedule according to NCDOT. A few months ago the Town of Carolina Beach met with NCDOT officials and the contractor performing the work - American Bridge Co. - and set a target date of May 15th to wrap up work on the bridge and return it to four lanes for the busy summer season. Currently the lanes were reduced to two while crews worked on the southbound lanes. As the weather started warming up traffic congestion on sunny weekend days began to build leading onto Pleasure Island.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the contractor working on the Snow's Cut Bridge rehabilitation project met with Carolina Beach leaders Thursday February 28, and agreed to adjust the schedule to ensure all four lanes are open during the busy summer season.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth and Interim Town Manager Bruce Shell met with NCDOT and the contractor - American Bridge Company - and agreed the contractor will finish resurfacing the two southbound lanes on the bridge by May 15 and return to work on the northbound lanes in September.
The bridge was still restricted to two lanes during the busy Easter Holiday Weekend and generated extremely long lines of traffic leading onto the Island.
Shuttleworth commented in February the contractor encountered issues during the project which caused a delay.
Traffic on the bridge on Carolina Beach Road/U.S. 421 over the Intracoastal Waterway was reduced from four to two lanes in October to allow crews to perform extensive repair work. The project to rehabilitate the 51-year-old bridge leading onto Pleasure Island began in September.
NCDOT Secretary Gene Conti announced in June 2012, NCDOT awarded a $4.6 million contract to American Bridge Co. of Coraopolis, Pa. to preserve the bridge over Snows Cut on U.S. 421 in Carolina Beach. The bridge was built in the 1960's and needs attention to areas weathered by the elements over the decades.
This bridge is being rehabilitated using a new resurfacing technique called hydro-demolition. During this resurfacing process, the deteriorated concrete on the bridge deck is removed in part using high-pressure water, and the bridge will be resurfaced using high-strength concrete. Crews began resurfacing the lanes on the west side of the bridge in late January causing traffic to slow at times. Workers were slowing or stopping vehicles at times to avoid spray from the project blowing onto passing vehicles.
In addition to hydro-demolition and resurfacing of the roadway, the contract also includes painting of structural steel and repairs to substructure concrete. The process is designed to protect the road surface and bridge structure from the elements.
Even though the contractor will delay work on the two northbound lanes until the fall, work will continue underneath the bridge.
On Sunday May 12, Carolina Beach Mayor Bob Lewis wrote to other council members that, "It would appear from the cuts at the top of the bridge that there are at least three more expansion joints that need to be poured before the bridge opens, they also need to stripe the bridge.  Based on how slow work is progressed this week we will not have the bridge opened this week and the next weekend is Memorial Day weekend.  Can you contact the DOT and the contractor and get us a meeting to discuss.  May 15th is in 3 days.  Dow Road is not complete and now the bridge work has slowed to a crawl."
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth wrote to Karen Eason Fussell, PE, NCDOT Division 3, Division Engineer on May 12 that, "Anxiety is very high down here regarding our two on going projects. Dow Road was to be done by the 1st and the bridge by the 15th. Dow Road is not done yet and bridgework truly has slowed to a crawl. We have been watching expansion joints being worked for several weeks.  The crew size has been cut back sometimes just 3 or 4 guys. It has taken weeks to cut the expansion joints and still they have several left to cut and then fill. It is extremely hard for us to keep defending this progress. This is now close to a major economic impact and creating crisis."
Shuttleworth explained, "We cannot tolerate another weekend of two lanes. It was horrible Friday,  Satuday and Sunday.  It was bad enough they chose Easter weekend to make a pour. We caught hell for that but now Mother's Day with 80 degree weather saw the lines on and off increase to an unacceptable level. I have copied the town manager and mayor on this email. We need help. We must have the lanes open this week."
On Monday May 13, Fussell responded to Shuttleworth and wrote, "Jackson is sitting in my office right now. Those 14 joints and striping should be complete by the end of the week. They had some in last week and had to rip them back out and re-install, as they were not placed properly. Our target is still May 15th. We have had difficulties with this particular contract. They are over 30% behind in this contract. It has been very challenging, as they appear to be more proficient at filing claims than executing the contract work. It has gotten to the point in the traffic where we are just going to pull them off the bridge now and deal with the ramifications of claims against the contract later."
Fussell explained, "We sincerely apologize for the impact to Carolina Beach thus far. As you know, there’s really no great time to work on a beach bridge. A while back, we set a goal to open traffic back up by Memorial Day and it my understanding the Town was appreciative of that date. We came back and set May 15th as a goal and are working diligently to meet that date. I know warm weekends don’t make the wait any easier.  As for Dow Road, it should also be complete by Memorial Day as well."
Mayor Lewis wrote to Fussell on Monday explaining, "We all appreciate your hard work and diligence in this matter.  We understand the value NCDOT is providing our region of the state with both the Dow Road project and the much needed Snows Cut Bridge work. We also realize there is no good time to do bridge work. We get calls everyday on the bridge and when I inspected it this past Friday I noticed the cuts in the surface at the top of the bridge and the re-poured joints in the same area.  I have also noticed that most everything has been removed from the bridge and only a few construction workers remain.  We are concerned because on Memorial Day weekend starting on Friday morning of that weekend we will have over 30,000 people visiting in just Carolina Beach.  All of our hotels and condos are already booked up for that weekend."
Lewis explained, "We do thank you for the great work your department does and we have benefited and will benefit in the future from highway and bridge work the DOT is doing in our area, Lake Park Blvd looks great, Dow Road looks like it is getting close to being done and this will dramatically increase safety on this road and the bridge will hopefully survive another 25-30 years."
Fussell explained the same day that, "Something else to note about these contracts (Wrightsville and Snow’s Cut). I can’t speak for how things were done in the past before I arrived last year, but it has been made abundantly clear to me that we must take a closer look at our timing the beach bridgework. That will also include more open communication with our Central Bridge Unit which writes some of bridge work contracts as well. As you can imagine, to make the most of a contractor’s time and in turn, get a better price for the work, allowing the contractor to work uninterrupted is the way to schedule the work. Perhaps that has always been our bottom line, and understandable so, given the limited amount of funds we have vs. the amount of work we need to perform."
She explained, "We didn’t as much consider the economic impact to the Beaches during construction activities. And here’s to understanding now… that we should have. I regret Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach had to be the springboard for this epiphany. In the future, we will strive to be more mindful of not only the Beaches prime economic seasons, but community special events that draw visitors  that keep us thriving economically. This will mean more open  communication and perhaps an extra meeting or two with our local officials, but in the end… I hope we all  find it worth our while. Due to the nature of work and some sequencing of certain activities, I can’t promise we can meet every demand/event need, but I can assure you that will we make every effort to do just that."
At the Council's May 14, meeting Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said he was not sure why local news media had aired reports that it was guaranteed the bridge would return to four lanes by Friday. He said, "There was no guarantee. They are trying everything they can to get out of here this week."
He said, "They did say May 15, when we met a month or so ago" and that by Wednesday or Thursday of this week crews should be painting stripes on the roadway.