Wilson County Residents Resolve to Save Buckhorn Bridge
Posted March 28, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
ROCK RIDGE — A small bridge is at the heart of a big controversy inWilson County. The city ofWilsonis expanding its water reservoir and that means the Buckhorn bridge will have to go.
Residents of the Rock Ridge community have launched a grass roots effort to stop the demolition.
More than 100 families in western Wilson County want theDepartment of Transportationto save the Buckhorn bridge -- the only connector between two sides of the massive Buckhorn Reservoir.
"We've not been treated right on this thing from the word go," says Mike Hocutt, a Wilson County farmer. "The city of Wilson comes in, they condemn your land, they take your roads and they say this is progress. It may be for the city of Wilson, but it's not good for us."
Neighbors say the extra eight to 10 miles they will have to drive without the bridge is more than an inconvenience; it is also dangerous.
Motorists will be forced to put slow-moving farm equipment on N.C. 42, a curvy, two-lane road that is already busy. Emergency crews say it will take longer to get where they are going, and hope no one gets hurt because of the delay.
"It will increase our normal response time of five to six minutes to 12 to 18 minutes, driving at the normal, safe speed limit," says Chief Jimmy Miller of the Rock Ridge Volunteer Fire Department.
Monday morning, DOT Secretary Norris Tolson met with concerned neighbors. He says the old bridge will have to go when the water level rises 12 feet this summer. He says a new bridge is a possibility if the city and county can prove it is necessary and help pay for it.
"We will study the details of what it would cost to do a bridge, and if they can get together on a local basis, with some local participation to help with the bridge, then we'll look at DOT to see if we can find somebody to help with that," says Tolson.
Bailey Road, the road leading to the bridge, is already closed to traffic. The city says it understands that there may be some inconvenience, but says 40,000 people depend on the water supply. They say study after study shows tearing down the bridge is the best course of action for the majority of taxpayers.
"We understand and acknowledge the fact that it does create some hardship, but nevertheless, it is one of those things that is essential to move forward in life," says Charles Pittman, deputy city manager.
Neighbors hope the powers that be come up with another plan before the bridge is history. Residents say they will take their case to the city council and county commissioners to get the ruling overturned.