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What is the construction activity on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway?

Patrick Gannon

You must be referring to a bridge replacement project by the N.C. Department of Transportation.

The DOT is replacing the 1934 bridge over CSX railroad tracks on Cornelius Harnett Drive, the former N.C. 133. Cape Fear Paving has a $3.3 million contract with the DOT to do the work and is expected to finish by October 2010.

The road and bridge once carried thousands of cars a day. But when the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway was built, taking over the N.C. 133 designation, it cut the road off from the south. As a result, about 10 businesses between the bridge and where the road dead ends a short distance away now operate in Wilmington’s “land of the lost,” between the Parkway and the Northeast Cape Fear River.

Traffic over the 75-year-old bridge has slowed to a trickle, from 25,000 cars a day before the parkway to about 1,400 cars a day today, according to traffic counts taken by area transportation officials. As a result, some have questioned why millions of dollars are being spent on a new span when much busier roads in the region need help.

But the structure is in rough shape. The DOT considers it in “poor” condition, with a sufficiency rating of 2 on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the best shape and 0 the worst. It’s the worst rating of all bridges in New Hanover County.

Amanda Glynn, DOT bridge maintenance engineer, said the bridge is reaching the point when mounting maintenance costs make it more cost-effective to replace.

Cape Fear Paving is expected to demolish the old one when the new bridge is finished.

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