Rogers Road Bridge Closing Causes Concerns and Provides New Opportunities

May 2016

By Lisa Brown

June 13 marks the first day of construction during the Rogers Road Bridge closure. Officially part of “Operation Bridge Exchange,” which is the Town of Wake Forest’s name for four bridge replacement projects, the Rogers Road Bridge venture is scheduled to be completed in approximately 135 days, including holidays and weekends to ensure a timely finish.

The Town of Wake Forest understands the inconvenience for businesses, commuters and consumers. Once the project is completed, however, the relief provided by a five-lane bridge, wider road, traffic signal improvements and pedestrian amenities will outweigh the annoyance.

Corey Hutcherson, Wake Forest Chamber of Commerce membership director, is helping area businesses deal with the construction by teaming up with local advertising resources, all of which have offered flat-rate, lower-cost marketing packages.

“We will be using digital platforms as well to provide updates, including the town’s website, NextDoor app and Facebook,” Hutcherson said.

The businesses most affected will also be utilizing social media to keep their customers updated as work progresses on project that has been on the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s to-do list for years.

Dairy Depot owner Karrie Mathues sees the need for the project very clearly. Her shop sits atop the hill overlooking the existing bridge, which, while considered safe structurally, is functionally obsolete, having been built to design standards no longer used.

“I’ve watched high school students walk over that bridge, and they are so close to the traffic, it’s scary,” Mathues said.

Her business in particular is being hit at a difficult time.

“We depend on summer traffic and people to come and sit outside and enjoy ice cream. Adding 10 minutes may or may not make a difference. It’s a nervous time,” she said. “I’m still working on ideas during construction, including family fun promotions.”

As traffic increases on Rogers Road, the new bridge will allow for heavier flow and also include a pedestrian walkway. Sitting in the middle of a busy commercial area and the Heritage public and private schools, the bridge will be able to handle key bottleneck times during morning and afternoon rush hours.

Until then, however, Marco’s Pizza will also have a specific issue since much of its business depends upon timely and hot delivery. Assistant Manager Chris Terry is optimistic that this closing will impact the store less than the Forestville Road bridge closing did last year, but it still will cause delays.

“When people call and order, we’ll have to let them know that we’ll have extended delivery times. The drivers will be out of the store longer because they’ll have to take the long way around to pretty much anywhere,” Terry said.

Niki Privette, co-owner of Real McCoys, is not sure how the closing will impact the business since there has been no real precedent. She assumes that the lunch business will be most impacted since customers have a limited time period in which to eat and taking the extra 10 to 20 minutes may not be possible.

“We don’t want to worry unnecessarily, but we do want to be prepared,” Privette said.

As a result, Real McCoys has begun reaching out to local businesses to start a take-out campaign. So far, Privette said, responses have been good.

Vanessa Davis of Dirty Dogs Spa is also uncertain of the impact but will work with customers to make it as simple as possible.

“We’ll work to notify our customers ahead of time, and we’ll be sending our monthly email during the first week of May and ahead of the bridge closing to just let our customers know,” she said. “Also, in our emails, we’ll be giving them alternative routes. We’ll include a link with our address, and if they click onto it from Google maps, it’ll reroute them.”

Principal Chris McCabe at Heritage Middle School is not sure of the impact and for how long but is doing his best to be proactive.

“I will be out in front of the school at during carpool to help alleviate any worries,” McCabe said. “I will be flexible in the beginning for tardiness, but at some point I think everyone will adjust their schedules, and it will work out.”

McCabe has walked and biked across the bridge himself and knows how unsafe it is.

“This will be painful for a bit, but I’m looking forward to it being done,” he said. “It will be safer for everyone.”

While uncertainty looms, the businesses are hopeful that the impact will be minimal as time goes on. After an adjustment period, new routes will become normal, and loyal customers will take the few extra minutes to frequent their favorite places. While business operators are all feeling uncertain and concerned, they are also relieved that the construction is finally happening and will make traffic much better for that area.

Hutcherson himself has already planned his alternate route for the construction and is optimistic that the town and its residents will understand the need for the upgrade and continue to support local businesses that will be affected.

“I know they will continue to support their community businesses while this is going on,” he said.

Privette is also seeing the bridge closing as a chance to try new things and reach out in different ways.

“This could be an opportunity for new possibilities,” she said.

detourThe Town of Wake Forest has created a web page dedicated to this bridge replacement project. The goal is for the page to help alleviate the impact and stress on those who live and work in and around the area. It will include updates, safety tips, project map and detours. All dates are subject to change.