KANNAPOLIS -- The North Carolina Department of Transportation is moving toward knocking down a “structurally deficient” bridge over U.S. 29 in Kannapolis.
Kannapolis resident Grant Rader says the public plans to fight NCDOT to build a new bridge rather than replacing it with an at-grade intersection, citing safety issues.
He started a petition with, so far, more than 300 signatures.
“And there’s probably another 200 people I have spoken with but I didn’t have the petition with me, when I tell them what’s going on, some of the comments are not printable,” Rader said. “It’s the most asinine thing they have ever heard of.”
The bridge has been on East 1st Street since 1953 and has been hit multiple times over the years by tall trucks, according to transportation officials.
“The bridge is structurally deficient,” said Garland Haywood, Division 10 bridge program manager. “That’s the motivation behind this, the deterioration and the elements of the bridge. The vertical clearance is below the current requirement.”
NCDOT answered questions about the issues and resolutions at the June 10 Kannapolis City Council meeting, and also listened to objections from the public.
Transportation officials recommend getting rid of the bridge and installing an intersection with traffic lights.
“We always notice there were kids that walked across (the bridge) on the way to A.L. Brown, and there are also inexperienced drivers from A.L. Brown driving across,” Rader said. “If they put an intersection there, 90 percent of all accidents occur at intersections.”
NCDOT officials say the project is designed as a treatment to safely handle forecasted traffic volumes. Aside from the intersection, striped bicycle lanes and sidewalks will be added along both sides of East 1st Street.
“We identified that in 2015 as a need for a replacement,” Haywood said. “We started the process of trying to get a replacement in there, at least to remove that bridge and find the right treatment for it.”
Protesters say another traffic signal on U.S. 29 Cannon Boulevard near East 1st Street would make three within a quarter of a mile distance.
“I wouldn’t want my kids walking across U.S. 29 with or without a button you can push for pedestrians,” Rader said. “All it takes is one person to not notice because there is a truck there and go blowing there an intersection. How many kids do you want to kill to realize you should have put a bridge there?”
Transportation officials also said that installing an at-grade intersection will be less costly than building a brand-new bridge, which would have to be raised.
The presented cost for a bridge replacement would be around $4.1 million compared to the cost of an at-grade intersection at nearly $2.9 million.
However, objectors question the $1.5 million of the bridge replacement that is needed for maintenance during a 50-year lifetime span.
“Everything they are doing makes no sense to me,” Rader said. “The cost is the same, yes it will be a longer delay to put a bridge there, but if they time it right while school is out and while the downtown is torn up, they will minimalize the problem.”
NCDOT officials said they received a letter of support for the project from the city in January.
“In the meantime, we have a set of plans that we can go after and I think we are going to go ahead and move forward until we know otherwise,” Haywood said.
Radar says he was told the issue will be on the agenda at the next city council meeting on June 24.
The bridge attaches to East 1st Street which is one of the main roads that lead into downtown Kannapolis.
“Over the years, it’s pretty low, and it’s been hit a couple of times,” Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant said. “As a result of that, they said they felt it needed to be replaced. They said it was a safety hazard and has been hit by tall trucks.”