KURE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – Leaders around the Cape Fear Region continue discussing options to replace the aging Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. On Tuesday, Kure Beach Town Council discussed the unsolicited proposal made to the North Carolina Department of Transportation to replace the bridge with a toll bridge.
Commissioner John Ellen represents Kure Beach on the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Board (WMPO). He explained the unsolicited proposal to council, and has gathered feedback from the public as well.
Kure Beach Town Council ultimately decided to support the idea of NCDOT moving forward and doing more research.
“The NCDOT would like the WMPO to support their effort in further research of what makes sense to have a new, different, bigger, better bridge crossing over the Cape Fear River.” Ellen said. “And so the MPO wants the different communities represented on the MPO to ask their different councils — would they support the MPO supporting the NCDOT?”
There were some concerns expressed by others on the council. Mayor Pro Tem David Heglar said he didn’t think Kure Beach Town Council should be leading the charge for this idea, and wanted to hear the discussions taking place in areas more directly impacted.
“We’re at the end of the road, we have the least number of people coming across that bridge. We have Belville and Wilmington and even Wrightsville and Carolina Beach have a lot more people going across there,” Heglar said.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation made a presentation to Leland Town Council last week about the proposed toll bridge to replace the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. Leland town council members voiced residents’ concerns about the tolling component of the unsolicited proposal, especially those who go back and forth every day.
Tomorrow a similar presentation will be made at the Wilmington City Council meeting.
Kure Beach Town Council Commissioner Joseph Whitley said it all sounded like Pandora’s box getting cracked open and that they don’t know what could be inside.
Commissioner Allen Oliver from the start of the discussion said that council needed to be supportive of the WMPO looking at all alternatives.
“We need to be supportive of the WMPO looking for the best alternative and presenting that alternative to us,” Oliver said. “Then when all the alternatives are there, then you start supporting something.”
If the WMPO decides to move forward, there would be a competitive selection process where other groups would be able to submit bids. Once the NCDOT begins to solicit other bids, the WMPO still does not have to support any of the proposals.
“No one has to accept any one of those bids,” Ellen explained. “Just like you want someone to repair your car and you take it to three different places, you don’t have to accept any one of those. You can decide to live with your car’s problem, or you can decide to buy a new car, or you can decide to go to another repair shop until you find what you’re happy with.”
The private company that proposed the unsolicited bid to the NCDOT presented one option — the fixed span bridge with 135-foot clearance. It would be fully funded on day one but would include tolling.
If the WMPO gives the green light to the NCDOT to move forward, there would be a competitive selection process where others could submit bids as well. The WMPO would be voting on approving an idea, not specifically selecting the unsolicited bid that is currently on the table.
The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is reaching the end of its lifespan, but the NCDOT said that it’s extremely unlikely the state will be able to do it alone to pay the huge price tag to replace the bridge in the next decade.
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