NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) – Reactions were mixed after an idea for replacing the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge was presented by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Wednesday evening.
The unsolicited idea proposed a public-private partnership that would include tolls to help cover the costs.
Brunswick County Commission Chair Randy Thompson, Commissioner Frank Williams, and Leland’s Mayor Brenda Bozeman expressed concern that a toll bridge would cause significant hardship to many Leland residents.
On Friday, Thompson wrote:
“We recognize the pressing need to replace the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. While more information is still needed to make an informed position on the issue, my fellow board members and I have concerns and questions about the proposal based on what has been reported so far. We are mindful that adding any fee or tax to a service also adds an additional burden on the users, especially those who are on a fixed or low income. Both Brunswick and New Hanover counties, and the Cape Fear region at large, rely on this bridge to connect us to jobs, health care, businesses, and services. The replacement bridge must improve—not impede—our connections to those places. Our residents, businesses, and industries depend on and expect an equitable option for the replacement of this bridge that aligns with our county’s long-term transportation needs.”
Williams, who is also a board member of the Greater Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, encouraged other elected officials to keep an open mind in his statement issued Friday:
“Given the practical realities of transportation funding and prioritization [in] North Carolina, I am open to further study of this proposal, and I encourage other elected officials to investigate it with an open mind. While there are many unanswered questions, this unsolicited proposal does present us with a possible opportunity to move forward with a high-ticket, high-priority project that appears unlikely to have any other realistic path forward in the next decade. While I am open to exploring the proposal, I will have a number of questions that need to be answered before I can support a specific plan in the future. Most importantly, I will need to know how this will impact the finances of citizens who rely on the bridge to commute to work and businesses that rely on it for commerce.”
The Board of Commissioners intends to organize a public meeting to learn more about the unsolicited proposal suggesting a toll bridge to fully explore its options.
Bozeman posted on the Town of Leland’s Facebook page Thursday evening.
New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chair Julia Olson-Boseman released the following statement early Thursday indicating all options need to be considered because of the expected growth in the region and the limited lifespan of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge.
“As chair of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, I am committed to finding solutions to our community’s infrastructure needs with a keen focus on the future and the population growth we are expecting, not only in New Hanover County, but also across the region.”
We have to consider all the possibilities to fund the major projects in the Cape Fear region, especially as it pertains to the safety of our citizens, and we have to understand any and all funding sources that are available. I am eager to understand and learn more about the unsolicited proposal that was presented yesterday, so we can make an informed decision on how to move forward.”
Olson-Boseman recalled visiting the bridge as a child, just after it had been built, and remembers it as a significant moment in the region’s history. She referenced its continued importance as a connection for residents and workers in the region today.
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