NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) Effective October 16, the Alfred Cunningham Memorial Bridge in downtown New Bern will operate on a new schedule.
It was added as § 117.843 in the federal registry last week.
The new schedule will be as follows:
- The draw of the U.S. 70 Bridge, mile 0.0, at New Bern:
- Shall open on the hour and the half hour from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., except during the times authorized in accordance with (a) (2) of this section.
- Shall remain closed from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays.
- Shall open on signal from 10 p.m.to 6 a.m.
- Shall open upon request at all times for vessels as defined in § 117.31
§ 117.31 pertains to emergency vehicles responding to emergency situations.
Public Works Director Matt Montanye began reaching out to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) in 2018 about changing the schedule, after the City received complaints from citizens and business owners that the bridge opened at inconvenient times.
NCDOT is the owner and operator of the Cunningham Bridge.
“We were getting complaints that the bridge would go up during the morning rush or just as everyone was leaving downtown at the end of the workday,” said Montanye. “And traffic would back up into downtown and James City. Someone even created a Facebook page called ‘Stuck at the New Bern Drawbridge.’ We knew we needed to do something.”
At their June 26, 2018 meeting, the Board of Aldermen adopted a resolution in support of changing the Alfred Cunningham Memorial Bridge schedule.
Back then, the bridge opened at will or on demand two to three times per hour.
After unanimous support for the resolution, Montanye got to work and reached out to NCDOT.
“They explained to me the process for amending the bridge schedule. There is a period of review and approval by NCDOT first, then they forward the resolution to the United States Coast Guard,” said Montanye. “The Coast Guard reviews the request and posts the proposed changes for public comment. If approved, the changes are sent to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations for publishing.”
Soon after submitting the resolution to NCDOT, the City learned the proposed changes were supported by the State.
In October 2019, the U.S. Coast Guard drafted a public notice about the changes, asking for public comment.
In April 2020, the proposal was sent to U.S. Coast Guard leadership for final review.
On September 16, the amended schedule was recorded in the federal register.
On Monday, Montanye learned the operational changes would go into effect in October.
“The Cunningham Bridge is a gateway into New Bern and it’s important that it not be a barrier to travel whether you’re in a car, on a bicycle, walking, or on a boat,” said Mark Stephens, City Manager. “We wanted to create a win-win solution for everyone, and I think this schedule will work for everyone. We’re thankful NCDOT and the Coast Guard worked with us to make these necessary changes.”