Students may experience travel delays as Main Street closes next summer.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation plans to demolish and rebuild the bridge over Campus Drive adjacent to East Campus, a project called the Main Street Bridge Replacement Project. The construction, which will begin May 2013, comes in response to concerns regarding the structure of the bridge. Construction cannot begin until Durham completes its current waterline replacement project.
“This construction is a city project that must happen,” said sophomore Derek Rhodes, Duke Student Government vice president of Durham and regional affairs.
The bridge, which was built in 1950, is considered “functionally obsolete,” said City Transportation Director Mark Ahrendsen in a Durham City Council meeting in March, adding that the narrowness of the Campus Drive underpass and its low clearance pose safety concerns. Construction on the bridge could take up to 12 months.
But the project cannot begin until the city finishes replacing the water line under Main Street.
“The new pipeline must be done first to maintain both water quality and availability of water in the distribution system,” according to a handout from city’s Water Management Department. “The old lines, which are underneath the bridge, can’t be taken out of service until the new line is complete.”
The construction on the water line is part of the water management department’s project to make long-term improvements to Durham’s water infrastructure. The city plans to replace more than one mile of water pipes built in the early 20th century along West Main Street, Ninth Street, Iredell Street, South Buchanan Boulevard and Perry Street, with a larger waterline to better support the surrounding area’s water system.
“While most of the water line work on West Main Street is nearly complete, the section along Ninth Street, some of Perry and Hillsborough Rd. still remains to be done,” said Jim Harding, civil engineer with the city’s water management department.
He added that construction on Ninth and Perry streets and Hillsborough Road will likely be completed by the end of the month.
Construction of the Main Street Bridge will begin as soon as the waterline work is finished, Harding said, adding that West Main Street—between Broad Street and Buchanan Boulevard—will be closed during the construction.
NCDOT also has plans to resurface Main Street from Ninth Street to Peabody Street, and a segment of Swift Avenue from Main Street to NC 147.
Representatives of the city, NCDOT and the University met in March to discuss opportunities to consider ways to compress the bridge construction schedule and minimize the closure of Main Street.
“Normally a bridge this size takes about six to 12 months to replace,” said NCDOT Division Engineer Wally Bowman. “After various meetings [with Duke], the time has been shortened to 150 days for the bridge replacement.... NCDOT has pledged that there will be no work on Campus Drive during Duke’s freshman move-in August.”
Bowman added that in the discussions, NCDOT agreed to work during the night until 6 a.m., and the contractor would not begin deconstructing the bridge until after graduation on May 13. But neither Duke Parking Transportation nor DSG have been notified about the specific details of the project, said Joseph Honeycutt, acting assistant director for transit and fleet oprations.
“Surely if it becomes a problem or a major inconvenience for students, we will look into it,” Rhodes said. “I have faith that the city will do its best, as it has done in the past, to work with Duke and make the project go as smoothly and quickly as possible.”