After nearly 10 months of work, one of Kill Devil Hills’ scenic stretches is only days away from becoming more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. Not a minute too soon, according to Lee Beasley.
Phases Three and Four of the town’s multi-use path alongside Bay Drive and Canal Drive are scheduled to be completed by July 3.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape to hit that date,” says Town Engineer Pete Burkhimer, a longtime employee with American Engineering Associates and a KDH resident.
“I think the town ought to throw a big party when it’s complete,” says Beasley, an elementary school teacher who lives on the east side of Bay Drive, between Fifth Street and West Durham Avenue. “I don’t even mind losing some of my yard, as long as they finish.”
Burkhimer says that the path and roadways should be usable before July 4 — what he called “substantial completion” of the project — but that workers would likely spend 2-3 weeks afterward on cleanup and landscaping.
Workers completed installation of new drainage and graded the foundation of the path in early June. They then began laying down asphalt for the 10-foot wide path in the middle of the month, and they will conclude by repaving the 1.05-mile stretch of Bay and Canal drives, from West Avalon to the intersection of West First Street. Burkhimer says to expect delays along Bay and Canal drives during path completion and repaving, though one lane will be open during road repaving.
“I’m glad to see the path,” says Mike, a homeowner on the soundside of Bay Drive between Indian Avenue and Third Street who preferred not to give his last name. “It’s always a headache while a project like this is going on, but it’s going to be a great improvement.”
The $1.325-million project’s original estimate for completion was June 1, Burkhimer says, but workers uncovered challenges that slowed their pace. While digging down for new drainage and pipes, workers discovered excessive underground concrete, remnants of an old roadway, that was thicker and more extensive than anticipated. They also had to work around an excess of underground cables, particularly north of Third Street, and adjust the location of about a dozen cable TV and phone boxes along the route.
“For a project with an original forecast of 270 days to have an increase of 30 days, that’s not bad given the challenges we faced,” Burkhimer says.
Mike says that workers accidentally cut cable service to his home twice, in March and April. Both times, it required approximately 24 hours to restore. Still, he appreciated the care with which they worked.
“The workers have been really good, really accommodating, doing what they need to do,” he says.
Both residents emphasized the increased safety that the path will provide on an increasingly busy artery through the town. Beasley has lived on Bay Drive for almost 30 years and remembers when the stretch between Sportsman and Hayman drives was a sand path, with few houses along the way and minimal traffic. Mike has lived in the vicinity for more than 20 years.
Bay Drive has become a cut-around for some drivers to avoid traffic on Route 158, particularly in the busy summer months. New home construction has also picked up in recent years along Bay Drive and near the sound, which increases traffic. Some foreign seasonal workers, many of whom travel by bicycle, also will have a safer alternate route. A dedicated bike and pedestrian path will take residents and visitors off the street on that stretch.
They also hope that the promise of improved drainage is accurate in areas where water often pools during heavy rains.
Once completed, the multi-use path will run from Kitty Hawk, along Bay and Canal drives and West First Street, behind the Wright Brothers Memorial in Wright Woods to the intersection of Colington Road and Veterans Drive. Walkers, runners, and cyclists will have a scenic 3.6 miles on which they can travel, exercise or just sightsee, without having to venture onto main roadways.
“Any time you provide a way for people to get out of their cars,” Mike says, “is a good thing.”