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North Carolina

Toll rates, traffic, environmental impact: NCDOT funds $2M study to assess CF Memorial Bridge replacement

NCDOT has supplied $2 million for research to substitute the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. (Port City Daily / Amy Passaretti)

SOUTHEASTERN NC — While native and state officers struggled to determine funding to substitute the growing older Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, a step was taken this week to get the ball rolling.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has allotted $2 million from the State Highway Bridge Fund to assist cowl the price of the required research.

CONTINUE READING: ‘Must get transferring’: Officials fail to agree on path for CF Memorial Bridge replacement

The Highway Fund primarily helps tasks affecting the state’s present infrastructure, similar to: B. the renewal of motorways, the replacement of bridges and the paving of roads. The cash is distributed all through North Carolina as wanted.

NCDOT Division 3 engineer Chad Kimes instructed the board of administrators of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization at its Wednesday assembly that the $2 million will fund a visitors and income evaluation in addition to kickstart an environmental study.

Kimes stated NCDOT would choose a agency to conduct the visitors and income research – however can’t affirm a deadline for hiring. He hopes that the chosen firm can have accomplished the research by October 2023.

The outcomes will decide potential tolls and visitors distribution, Kimes stated.

The environmental evaluation course of might take longer – three to 5 years – and will likely be carried out by one other exterior marketing consultant, possible an engineering agency. The cash covers the price of hiring each firms.

Kimes defined to the WMPO Board that some info gathered from NCDOT and WMPO’s exploration of Cape Fear Crossing might be reused, however not all.

The mission, within the works for 1 / 4 of a century, was a proposed $1 billion bridge that will join New Hanover and Brunswick counties as a replacement for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. The state spent greater than $11 million investigating the mission, which was shelved in 2019 after public opposition and an absence of funding within the State Transportation Improvement Program.

CONTINUE READING: Hampstead Bypass, S. Front Street enlargement tasks might full earlier than anticipated

WMPO Director Mike Kozlosky stated that when accomplished, the research will assist the state determine different potential bridging funding alternatives — significantly federal grants, Kimes stated.

The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is certainly one of greater than 13,500 state bridges and eight.2% which can be thought-about in poor situation. While the bridge remains to be secure, in accordance to NCDOT, it has deteriorating elements that require vital upkeep.

“To completely solve the problems of a bridge in poor condition, a major refurbishment or replacement is usually required,” notes the NCDOT.

The company final inspected the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge in December 2021. One report recognized practically 100 requests for “priority action” upkeep, starting from uncovered rebar, cracked spans, corroded materials, lacking bolts, damaged guard rails and superior part loss.

On a scale of 0 to 9, the superstructure of the bridge was rated a 5, the deck and substructure every a 6, the channel a 7, and the adequacy of the waterway and entry highway orientation an 8.

Maintenance is usually coated by the State Highway Fund, which receives 80% of the fuel tax cash collected within the state. It can also be funded by DMV tolls and a small proportion of the freeway use tax. As of Friday, the Highway Fund totaled $2.8 billion.

The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge was inbuilt 1969 and presently carries greater than 60,000 autos every day. NCDOT predicts that quantity might attain greater than 80,000 by 2045.

State and native officers have been discussing methods to assist get better the price of the bridge replacement for years.

WMPO and NCDOT should agree on a approach ahead to safe funds. WMPO handed a decision in February to take into account all potential situations. For this purpose, NCDOT is exploring three strategies: typical authorities funding, a toll, and various choices similar to a public-private partnership.

In late 2020, an unsolicited provide from United Bridge Partners unveiled the flexibility to use a toll to offset the associated fee. Since the summer time of 2021, officers from New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties have been at odds over how to proceed.

Most are staunchly opposed to a toll and help voters’ needs, whereas others stay open-minded, noting that it could be the one approach ahead for now.

Kimes instructed Port City Daily that if funding is recognized, it might velocity up the bridge replacement schedule.

Once the visitors and income study is full, the boards can proceed with design and allowing choices whereas the environmental study is in progress.

“We are gathering the best information and data available to help WMPO make an informed decision on what they believe is right for the region,” he wrote to PCD.

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