It’s like a bridge over troubled traffic.
Except the traffic should be much less troubled when the project is finished, state officials say.
For the congested intersection of Military Cutoff and Eastwood roads in Wilmington, the N.C. Department of Transportation has chosen to recommend the construction of a grade separated quadrant interchange. That’s the long way of saying a bridge with two quadrants – Commonwealth and Drysdale drives.
“What that means is all your left-turning movement will go to these quadrants while through-movement on Eastwood and Military Cutoff will be free-flowing ... there will be no delays,” said Chad Kimes, deputy division engineer with the NCDOT.
He said it's not a true overpass, to think of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway when you go though 23rd Street, where there are big ramps and everything is more free-flowing.
The board of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) is set to vote during its 3 p.m. meeting Wednesday on a resolution that supports the recommendation.
“Anything we do, we work together. Every recommendation we make, we want the WMPO to work with us and be in the same mindset,” Kimes said.
Early estimates set the cost of the project, including right-of-way acquisition and the extension of Drysdale Drive, at $26 million, Kimes said. The project is fully funded.
Currently, the NCDOT’s right-of-way acquisition for the interchange is set to begin in 2020, with a let date (which means when it will be available for bidding) of September 2021. But that timeline, and that of the Drysdale Drive extension, could be accelerated, Kimes said.
“There may be an opportunity for us to go ahead and break out the Drysdale extension and let that early ... that would provide huge benefits just to build that connector, and we my decide to build that to accommodate any future growth in the area while we’re acquiring right-of-way for the rest of the project. That’s a potential depending on what happens in the area,” he said.
What’s planned for that specific area development-wise is CenterPoint, a $250 million mixed-use project in the works by Swain & Associates
at 1531 and 1541 Eastwood Road. The 1 million-square-foot retail, hospitality, office and residential center would be on 23 acres with street frontage on both Military Cutoff and Eastwood roads, next to the Eastport neighborhood to the east and the Cambridge Village retirement community to the west.
In announcements about CenterPoint last year, Swain & Associates highlighted the Drysdale Drive extension project as one of the hallmarks of CenterPoint’s design.
For the interchange, it’s hard to say exactly how much the businesses around the intersection of Military Cutoff and Eastwood roads will be impacted by the project because the NCDOT still needs to complete the engineering of the hydraulics involved – in other words, the storm drainage design, Kimes said. It’s not expected to be major impacts, he said.
He said the NCDOT works to minimize the impact of projects, to the environment and property owners, while getting the most benefit for the cost.
Also on Wednesday afternoon, the WMPO board is set to consider a resolution supporting the NCDOT's recommendation for a single point urban interchange as the preferred option for Market Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. Among the discussion topics on the agenda also were the planned Cape Fear Crossing
as a toll facility and the extension of Independence Boulevard.