By next summer, you may finally be able to drive on the Lake Dam Road bridge over Walnut Creek – more than four years after it was closed for being structurally unsafe.
The city will soon seek a contractor to replace the bridge, which has been closed so long that grass is growing up from cracks in its concrete deck.
The new bridge has been a long time coming for residents of West Raleigh. Lake Dam Road connects Avent Ferry and Tryon roads, and for many is the most direct route between the two.
“When I move around the district, that’s always the No. 1 question asked of me – when will that be completed?” said city councilwoman Kay Crowder, who has represented District D since late 2014. “It’s been out a lot longer than one would have hoped.”
Others are more blunt.
“It’s shameful,” said Joseph Matthews, who works on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus and wrote a letter to the city council in January 2015 asking why the bridge had not been repaired. “They built the Golden Gate Bridge in about four years.”
City officials say the timeline for the Lake Dam Road bridge replacement has been fairly typical. Since it became clear the bridge would need to be replaced, the city has been working on designs, permit applications, easement agreements with utility companies and finding the money, says Blair Hinkle, the assistant director of the city’s Engineering Services department.
“In reality there is a lot involved in doing a project like this,” Hinkle said.
What’s different about the Lake Dam Road project is that while all that planning and prep work has been taking place, the bridge has been closed.
An engineering firm doing a routine inspection in March 2014 found that two support beams on the bridge showed signs of failure and recommended that it be closed for repairs. The bridge, built in 1966, was scheduled to be replaced in a few years anyway, so city officials decided in late 2014 to forgo hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of repairs that would only be demolished in a few years and push ahead with replacement, Hinkle said.
Hinkle said the location of the bridge next to Lake Johnson Park complicated the movement of utilities such as gas, electric and communication lines that are under the road or hanging from the bridge, which delayed the start of construction a bit.
“That’s sort of a phase of construction that not many folks may be familiar with,” Hinkle said. “There’s a fairly lengthy process of coordinating with the utility companies.”
The new bridge will cost $1.8 million. Eighty percent of the money will come from the federal government, through a program administered by the N.C. Department of Transportation; the city will pay the rest.
The Lake Dam Road bridge is one of five being replaced in West Raleigh. Trailwood Drive reopened earlier this year when NCDOT completed a new bridge over Walnut Creek near Avent Ferry Road.
Once the Lake Dam Road bridge is completed, the Avent Ferry Road bridge over Lake Johnson will be closed and replaced. City officials hope to have the new Avent Ferry bridge open before NCDOT’s widening of a nearby stretch of the Beltline gets underway in earnest in 2019.
The Beltline project will involve the replacement of two more bridges where Athens Drive and Melbourne Road cross the highway. Each will take a year to demolish and replace, and the city council has asked that they not be closed at the same time.