New Bern Drawbridge To Have Set Operating Schedule
NEW BERN, Craven County — Commuters and boaters in New Bern need to be aware — the New Bern drawbridge will soon have a regular schedule.
Beginning Oct.16, the Alfred E. Cunningham Bridge in New Bern will operate on a schedule, according to a recent ordinance added to the federal registry this week.
The ordinance, 117.853 Trent River, states the bridge will open every hour and every half hour from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. After 10 p.m., the bridge will open upon request.
Prior to the ordinance, the bridge operated on request the majority of the time, making it difficult for people to predict when they may get stuck, and how often.
“This allows for motorists to plan around the bridge opening and for boaters to plan around the bridge opening,” said Matt Montanye, Director of Public Works for the City of New Bern.
Meg Wethington, who commutes back and forth from New Bern to James City every day, frequently gets stuck at the bridge.
“It’s just inevitable, any time of day,” Wethington said. “I’ve been late to work, I have texted into work with a picture, saying ‘Hey, stuck at the New Bern drawbridge again!'” Wethington says she has even seen the drawbridge open twice in a matter of 10 minutes.
According to data from United States Coast Guard, during the peak boating season months of June and July, as many as 306 vessels would pass under the bridge in a single-month period. Montanye says this ordinance should help group those crossings together so commuters are not constantly getting stuck.
Another change to take place under the new ordinance, according to Montanye, is during rush hour times. Before the ordinance, the bridge would stay closed from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. but would open at 7:30 a.m., a peak travel time. Similarly, the bridge would close from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the evening but would open at 5 p.m. for any boat wanting to cross underneath.
“It just tends to be at 5 o’clock every day when people are getting out of work, businesses are closing, that the bridge tends to open,” Montanye explained.
Under the new ordinance, officials say the bridge will stay closed during the entire rush hour windows, no longer opening at 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
“What this does, it allows that rush hour traffic that comes into downtown in the morning and out of town in the evening to not worry about that bridge opening,” he said.Wethington says, as a commuter, she is thrilled.
“I think it’s fabulous, so people can plan, know what’s going on, especially during holidays or busy seasons,” she said. “It really will help the flow of traffic.”
While some in the community expressed concern with the bridge opening on every hour and half hour, Montanye makes it clear that will only happen if — and only if — a vessel is requesting passage. The Public Works Director also says the draw will open upon request at all times for vessels of public safety, commercial vessels, tugs with or without barges and all vessels in distress.
Montanye, who spearheaded the project, says the City first drew up the ordinance in June of 2018 but had to send it through the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the United States Coast Guard before it could be added to the federal registry. Montanye says he got confirmation of the approval Monday.
New Bern now joins several cities across the country with similar ordinances — including in the states of New Jersey, Louisiana, Florida and many others.
Marketing and Customer Relations