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At least two of the state’s yellow IMAP trucks will help ease congestion on the Eagles Island causeway this summer.
At the Leland budget workshop Feb. 1, town manager David Hollis announced the North Carolina Department of Transportation approved bringing Incident Management Assistance Patrols (IMAP) to District 3, which includes Brunswick, Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Sampson counties.
But the focus of the IMAP trucks will be keeping traffic flowing on the causeway and areas affected by the high volume of traffic.
“The need has been there a while,” Hollis said.
He said traffic congestion on the causeway, especially during morning and afternoon rush hour, can back up traffic coming out of Wilmington to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, north on U.S. 421 from the S. Thomas Rhodes Bridge all the way to the Isabel Holmes Bridge and south on U.S.17 through Leland to Brunswick Forest.
The IMAP program provides trained NCDOT personnel to assist stranded motorists, clear the roadway and provide temporary traffic control when needed.
IMAP trucks can clear travel lanes of disabled vehicles with push bumpers and winches. They are equipped with traffic control devices like lighted arrow boards and other warning lights and sirens to notify vehicles to shift lanes.
They also carry gasoline tanks, jumper cables, jacks and tools to aid motorists.
IMAP trucks have been in use in major urban areas, such as Raleigh, Greensboro and Charlotte, but these are the first trucks based in the Wilmington area.
“It’s an important issue for Leland and the (Brunswick County) Sheriff (John Ingram),” Hollis said.
The need for traffic assistance led Ingram to consider purchasing an IMAP truck and operating the vehicle in Brunswick County. Leland officials were partners in the plan and discussed budgeting $15,000 for the project.
The Brunswick partners met with DOT District 3 officials twice in late-2012 about purchasing a used IMAP truck for the program, but learned Friday DOT would expand the program to the coast.
The DOT’s District 3 will buy two new IMAP trucks and two used trucks to serve as backup vehicles, Hollis said.
Two drivers will be hired and trained, but DOT will also train another six to eight employees to have a rotation of drivers available.
Hollis said no funding would be required from Leland or the sheriff’s office. The only thing DOT wants from the town and county is input on the peak traffic hours and other traffic concerns.
Hollis said DOT is in a hiring freeze while newly appointed State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata settles in. Once the freeze is lifted the hiring process for IMAP drivers could begin in March, with the two employees hired by April.
The trucks could be purchased by June and be on the road by July.
“To get them before the peak of summer would be good because traffic picks up,” Hollis said.
“To have them before the Fourth of July would be a great thing.”
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.