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It took more than five years, but a new bridge over Walnut Creek finally opens Friday

This sign will be gone by early Friday morning when the new Lake Dam Road bridge over Walnut Creek will open.
This sign will be gone by early Friday morning when the new Lake Dam Road bridge over Walnut Creek will open. rstradling@newsobserver.com

More than five years after a bridge in West Raleigh was closed because it was deemed unsafe, its replacement is set to open on Friday.

Lake Dam Road has been closed where it crosses Walnut Creek since March 2014, when a routine inspection found that two support beams on the bridge showed signs of failure. The bridge was built in 1966 and was scheduled to be replaced in a few years anyway, so city officials decided to forgo repairs and build a new bridge instead.

Lake Dam provides a direct link between Avent Ferry Road and Tryon Road, and residents have been keen to see it reopen. They’re planning a celebration at the bridge Thursday evening before it officially reopens to traffic early Friday.

City officials say the location of the bridge next to Lake Johnson Park complicated the movement of utilities such as gas, electric and communication lines but that otherwise the time it took to replace the bridge was fairly typical. Normally the city would work on designs, obtain permits and easement agreements with utility companies and find the money to build a replacement bridge while people continued to use the old one.

In this case, Lake Dam Road remained closed while all that work took place. The bridge was finally demolished early this spring.

“We understand the challenges this road closure caused residents and appreciate their patience during this project,” Wayne Miles, the city’s stormwater program manager, said in a statement. “It was .... crucial that we had every aspect finalized before constructing the bridge so that it is safe and functional for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.”

The project, which included a new sidewalk on the east side of the bridge and repairing the banks of the creek, cost $2.1 million, with 80% of the cost covered by the federal government.

Meanwhile, the N.C. Department of Transportation says it now will be early 2021 before it begins to replace the causeway and bridge that carry Avent Ferry Road over Lake Johnson. The NCDOT needs the extra time to come up with a way to compensate for the slivers of surrounding Lake Johnson Park it needs for that project. The park was created with help of a federal conservation program, and federal law requires the NCDOT to acquire property nearby to make up for what it takes, said spokesman Marty Homan.

The delay means work on Avent Ferry won’t begin until after contractors finish replacing the nearby Athens Drive bridge over the Beltline, as part of a larger project to widen the highway to six lanes. Both city and NCDOT officials hope to avoid having the Athens Drive and Avent Ferry bridges closed at the same time.

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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 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.
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