SURF CITY | For generations of Topsail Island tourists, feeling a unique rumble under the tires of the family car meant the long trip to the beach was over when they drove over the Surf City swing bridge. For locals, the swing bridge can represent waiting in traffic to get on or off the island as boats pass through.
But as of 2020 the landmark bridge will be gone and a new high-rise bridge will fly drivers over the Intracoastal Waterway with no interruptions. With 65-feet of clearance, boats and larger vessels will be able to pass under the new bridge without having to wait for an opening. It will also include a path for pedestrians and bicyclists.
At a meeting earlier this month the N.C. Board of Transportation approved a $53 million low bid for the project submitted by Balfour Beatty Infrastructure of Wilmington. The project was given the green light by the DOT in July.
The three lowest bids for the project were less than the DOT’s $58 million estimate. Of the nine bids, the highest came from a Kansas construction company that submitted a $79 million proposal.
Surf City Mayor Zander Guy said he was told the DOT is already ahead of schedule on the project that is supposed to wrap up in 2020. Construction on the new standing bridge could start as early as this fall, he added.
The city will lease out offices spaces to the contractors and other sub-contractors with the bridge, Guy said, adding the new bridge project is one that is celebrated and widely approved.
Some who are nostalgic about the bridge say it will diminish Surf City’s feel of a small fishing village and beach.
“If they put a big high-rise bridge up it won’t be Surf City anymore,” said Louise Maready, who lives on the island part-time. “It will be just another big beach city like Myrtle Beach or Atlantic City.”
Fishing on the Surf City Ocean Pier Tuesday, visitor Bernie Shorter said the bridge was just part of the island.
“We have stayed right near the bridge, fished under it and it is just fascinating to sit and watch the ships go by,” he said.
But local recreational fisherman Carl Banks said he will be happy to finally see it go. Traveling on and off the island for leisure in his off time, Banks said he feels it is time for a change.
“It always holds up traffic,” he said. “I mean the bridge is real cool, until you have to sit there and wait, and wait, and wait.”
Echoing comments by others, Banks said he just hopes the old swing bridge could be transported out into the waterway or ocean and used as an artificial reef.