It’s a lesson children learn at an early age.
If you want something, just ask.
Turns out, that may be all the town of Wendell has to do to get the bridge over Buffalo Creek reopened on Old Battle Bridge Road.
Commissioners approved a resolution asking for $250,000 each from the state House and the state Senate on Monday night that will provide half the estimated cost of rebuilding the bridge.
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The N.C. Department of Transportation closed the bridge in 2010 when DOT engineers declared the bridge was structurally deficient for some of the traffic which used the bridge. When the bridge was closed, DOT told town officials and residents that there was no timetable for rebuilding the bridge.
The decision to just close the bridge angered many residents who used Old Battle Bridge Road as a shortcut from Wendell Boulevard at Hephzibah Church to Eagle Rock Road. Wendell emergency officials opposed the move as well, citing the additional time it would take emergency vehicles to respond to calls in the Eagle Rock community. The road was also expected to serve as a popular route for Wendell Falls residents who wanted to get to the main part of town.
On Monday, Commissioner Jason Joyner talked about the resolution that was included in the board’s consent agenda and said he asked Town Manager Teresa Piner on the day after he was appointed, what projects were on the town’s list that the town hadn’t been able to accomplish. Among the items Piner talked about was the bridge over Buffalo Creek. Joyner credited State Rep. Darren Jackson, with catching him up on the history of the bridge, DOT’s decision to close the bridge and the local reaction to that decision.
Doing the deal
The next month, Joyner, who is a lobbyist by profession, attended a fundraiser for Speaker of the House Tim Moore, where he saw State Rep. Chris Malone and Board of Transportation chairman Ed Curran talking.
“I told them ‘I have a problem I need you to fix. It’s a bridge in eastern Wake County. I realize Wendell’s a small town in Wake County, but we are in Wake County. With the (funding) formula that’s in place, we’re never going to get this done,’” Joyner said.
Malone said he thought he could help. He set up a a meeting that included DOT Division Engineer Joey Hopkins, Piner, Joyner, Wendell police Chief Bill Carter, Wendell fire Chief Brian Staples and Sen. Chad Barefoot. Malone and Barefoot, as members of the majority party in the General Assembly, have access to so-called contingency funds, which can be used for projects like the bridge, which fall through the cracks during the state’s budget process.
At the meeting, Malone and Barefoot agreed to ask for $250,000 each from the fund. Hopkins said DOT had money that could be used to address the need. With $750,000 of the estimated $1 million price tag all but promised, Joyner told the group that Wendell truly had its hand out. “I felt like they wanted Wendell to have some skin in the game and come up with the rest, but I told them that Wendell just didn’t have any skin to give and that if we needed to, it wasn’t going to happen,” Joyner said.
Over the next new months, Malone kept in touch with Hopkins about the issue and Hopkins eventually told Malone he thought DOT could find the remaining $250,000 to fully fund the project.
‘I was asked’
Malone said he supported the project for a number of reasons.
“First of all, I was asked. It’s just that simple. Someone had a problem and asked for our help. I went out there and saw the bridge and saw the routes people were having to take and I thought it was worth fixing,” Malone said. “What we are really doing is speeding up the time frame. We should be able to get this taken care of in 2017-18. DOT had it on their plans for, I think, 2021 or something like that.”