Projects to reroute traffic

Two bridge construction projects along N.C. 16 Business north and south of Conover will soon detour traffic.

The N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) will make repairs to the N.C. 16 Business bridge over U.S. 70 south of downtown Conover and replace the N.C. 16 Business bridge over I-40 north of downtown.

Work on the bridge over U.S. 70 is expected to begin this month, said Rodney Gantt, a bridge maintenance engineer with DOT division 12.

According to DOT information, the project will be funded by the state.

"It's a repair damaged beams by heat-straightening project," Gantt said. "It's a repair project because someone has hit the bridge and caused damage to it."

Gantt said the state expects to award a contract for the bridge project in the next several days. He said DOT hopes to keep N.C. 16 Business open during the project, but periodic closures may be necessary.

"We have given the contractor five days of complete closure of U.S. 70 (near the bridge)," Gantt said. "A lot of the work is over the center line of traffic. Work will be done from nine at night to six in the morning."

Jimmy Clark, public works director for the city of Conover, provided Conover City Council a brief update on the bridge projects this week.

“The (U.S. 70) project is expected to take about 20 (working) days," Clark said. "Traffic will have to flow to get around it, and there is a detour map for the traffic pattern.”

Replacement of the N.C. 16 Business bridge over I-40 has been delayed by a state and federal dispute about labor rates for the project contract, DOT officials said this week. That federally funded project is now expected to begin in three-four months, said Dan Grissom, DOT division 12 construction engineer.

"DOT will replace the existing bridge at its exact location," Grissom said.

The bridge will be demolished, and eastbound and westbound lanes of I-40 will close periodically during the project. On N.C. 16, a detour will take drivers along County Home Road and 10th Street NW to avoid the bridge, Grissom said.

Safety of drivers who use the bridge is important, but businesses in the area have concerns about how the detour will affect customers, said Scott Gilleland, who owns The Untouchables restaurant at 10th Street NW and N.C. 16.

"The bridge is old," Gilleland said. "People are going by our business right now at 45 mph. What we're hoping is that it will benefit us in that people will slow down in front of our store and give us a look.

There's no doubt it's going to make it more difficult for people in the city of Conover to come eat in our restaurant. We're hoping it won't impact us too badly."

Gilleland said he believes the detour will delay drivers three-four minutes in traveling on N.C. 16.

Conover officials said detour maps for both bridge project areas are available by contacting the city at 828-464-1191 or visiting Conover City Hall.

In other business this week:

Conover City Council amended a city ordinance to facilitate required parking for the proposed Manufacturing Solutions Center (MSC) at Conover Station.

The previous ordinance said that “no portion of on-street rights-of-way (public or private) shall be considered as fulfilling or partially fulfilling the area requirements for off-street parking.”

There are currently 37 parking spaces along the street, Conover Station SE, in front of the proposed MSC.

“The newly constructed street at Conover Station was specifically designed to mimic downtown development environment,” according to city information. “We have sought to incorporate and utilize significant on-street parking for uses that are built at Conover Station. This helps to reduce the amount of off-street parking needed, so that developable land can be used for buildings and not for asphalt.”

City Manager Donald Duncan told the city council that the amendment does not prohibit the city from creating more parking behind the MSC in the future, but it keeps that land open for other uses.

“This is one of those unusual times when we’re both developer and regulator,” Duncan said. “In this case, we get to make the rules. I don’t say that lightly. We do this with great exception.”

The council approved an agreement with DOT related to the relocation of a city-owned water line to accommodate the replacement of a bridge over Hagan Creek on Boggs Road.

The relocation and adjustment of the line will cost the city an estimated $88,405.

“It’s the major line serving southeastern Catawba County,” Clark said in an agreement proposal to city council.

Lowdermilk Church & Co. LLP reported a clean 2010-11 fiscal year financial audit for the city, and the company praised the city’s ability to stay under budget.

Representatives said Conover kept its general fund expenditures more than $300,000 less than its $7,619,792 budget and increased its general fund assets by more than half a million dollars over fiscal year 2009-10.

“All our city employees should be commended,” Mayor Lee Moritz said.

“We’ve challenged them to make every dollar count. This is our report card right here.”

The council approved a lease agreement with Sidetrax Café, which will operate as a sandwich shop at Conover Station. Sidetrax will pay $200 a month to lease the 120-square-foot space.