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As one West Raleigh bridge comes down, plans to demolish a second one are postponed

All that was left of the Lake Dam Road bridge over Walnut Creek on Tuesday was the wooden pilings and the concrete beams they held up. Those are being removed, too. A new bridge should be in place sometime this fall.
All that was left of the Lake Dam Road bridge over Walnut Creek on Tuesday was the wooden pilings and the concrete beams they held up. Those are being removed, too. A new bridge should be in place sometime this fall. rstradling@newsobserver.com

As the long-awaited replacement of one bridge near Lake Johnson gets underway, the state Department of Transportation has delayed the start of rebuilding another bridge that crosses the lake nearby.

The Lake Dam Road bridge over Walnut Creek, just below the Lake Johnson dam, was closed in March 2014 when a routine inspection revealed problems with support beams. With the 53-year-old bridge slated to be replaced soon anyway, the city decided to push ahead with a full replacement rather than make repairs.

Five years later, the bridge has been dismantled, and the city says a new one should be in place by early fall.

“Crews will be working up to 7 days a week to make sure the project is finished on schedule,” city spokeswoman Kristin Freeman wrote in an email. “As of right now, we are on track to finish on time.”

That means Lake Dam Road should be open to traffic before the state shuts down Avent Ferry Road at Lake Johnson to replace the bridge there. The Avent Ferry bridge project was scheduled to get underway this spring, but the NCDOT has pushed it back a year to give the state time to acquire the right-of-way, spokesman Sean Williams said.

Avent Ferry Road crosses Lake Johnson on a causeway, with a 43-foot-long bridge that creates an opening between two parts of the lake. The bridge, built in 1955, is only 22 feet wide, which state engineers describe as “woefully narrow” for a road popular with cyclists.

The new bridge will be 51 feet wide, with 11-foot travel lanes, wide shoulders and a multi-use path on the east side set off from traffic by a concrete barrier.

Replacing the bridge will take 15 months and require a detour that will direct drivers to use Gorman Street and Tryon Road, Williams said. The closing of Avent Ferry will likely overlap with the widening of the Beltline nearby, which will include closing and replacing the bridges that carry Athens Drive and Melbourne Road over the highway.

City officials had hoped the Lake Dam Road bridge would be open by now, but several factors have combined to delay the start of construction, Freeman said. For starters, three layers of government have been involved in planning and financing, with the federal government providing 80 percent of the $1.7 million construction cost, Freeman said.

In addition, the bridge’s location next to Lake Johnson Park made it more difficult to move utilities such as sewer, gas, electric and communication lines that were under the road or hanging from the bridge.

Nearby residents will be happy to have the Lake Dam Road bridge open. Harold Ward, a retired chiropractor and Buddhist monk, has lived in an apartment near the bridge for three years and has never known it as anything but closed.

“Once they get it done, it’s going to save a lot of time getting on Tryon Road instead of circling all around,” Ward said Tuesday as he surveyed the construction site from the greenway trail nearby.

Capital Boulevard bridges at Wade Avenue and Peace Street are expected to finish up this year ending months of construction and detours.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 19 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.


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