Local News

Residents, Firefighters Worry Over Proposed Bridge Detour

Posted August 13, 2007 10:49 p.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2007 5:27 a.m. EDT

— Some commuters are bracing for what they expect to be a two-year traffic nightmare – a 12-mile detour around a failing bridge in north Raleigh.

Emergency workers say the detour is more than an inconvenience. They are worried because, they say, it will stretch their response times.

No one knows for sure how old the bridge is that carries Falls of Neuse Road over the waterway, but state officials say it is old enough to need to be replaced.

The discussion came almost two weeks after the collapse of an interstate highway bridge in Minnesota that was being repaired.

Larry Schlenz travels over the Neuse bridge twice a day. He and other citizens came to a workshop Monday evening to find out about the state Department of Transportation's plans for replacing the bridge.

"It's requiring maintenance and when it starts to require work then we look at trying to replace it," said Tracy Walter of the NCDOT.

The new bridge will be 8 feet wider than the current span. It's expected to take up to two years to demolish the old bridge and build a new one, beginning in 2010.

That’s the time when 20,000 motorists will be forced to take the detour, and so will trucks answering alarms to the Falls Volunteer Fire Department.

"There really is no alternative, the way I look at it," Chief Chris Wilson said. “Even if there is another fire department on the north side of the bridge, it's still not going to equate to what we have now."

The project will mean longer response times, Wilson said.

NCDOT considered building a new bridge before knocking down the old one, but decided that was not the best course. The agency said, however, it would look into the fire department's concern.

Janet Steddum says the project will also destroy a piece of history.

"I hate to see history knocked down,” said Steddum, who wrote a book about the battle for Falls Lake.