Work to improve the Heide Trask Drawbridge will commence in 2019, according to an email Wrightsville Beach Town Manager Tim Owens sent the town’s board of aldermen.
Owens said the North Carolina Department of Transportation will do some repairs to the bridge after the first of the year.
The NCDOT has also hired a contractor to install bike-friendly grates on the bridge, which could move traffic down to one lane at times and require extended closings and openings on the bridge.
The existing grate will be retrofit with a steel plate with a non-skid surface. An official from the state transportation department said the plates would be approximately 30 inches wide, allowing for a safer crossing for bicycle riders.
Owens said installation of the plates would likely begin in mid-March, lasting approximately 30 days. The project could also require extended bridge openings lasting as long as 30 minutes, over the course of three evenings.
The change comes after the town sent the transportation department several letters from bicyclists about their experiences crossing the bridge. One rider said that despite the dangers to pedestrians, he will ride on the sidewalk instead of the street, which he considered “the lesser of the evils.” Another said he was in a bike accident due to the wet grate. Still another reported that she was too afraid to use the bridge while on bicycle.
“If this bridge is wet it is treacherous,” one bicyclist wrote. “Cars don’t always give much road space traveling over the bridge and I have almost slid right into the path of one. Very, very scary. I have witnesses other cyclists sliding out of control as well.”
The federally-funded project was initially slated for winter 2016.