Local group takes "important step" in building a new bridge - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Local group takes "important step" in bringing new bridge to cross Cape Fear River

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization is asking the North Carolina Department of Transportation to move forward with a study that would determine the least environmentally damaging route for a new bridge over the Cape Fear River.

Some members of the MPO expressed concerns over being bound to a route based only on the environmental data. However, following a lengthy discussion, the MPO board decided to ask the NCDOT to provide several recommendations and detailed information on all available options. Then, the MPO can decide how it would like to move ahead with the project.

The study was stalled in 2010, due to a miscommunication between the MPO and the state DOT, explained Laura Padgett, who chairs the board.

Padgett said with the way the population is growing in our region, it's time to move the project forward.

In 2035, it's estimated that 100,000 vehicles a day will cross the bridge. Right now, around 49,000 cross daily.

According to the NCDOT, the bridge isn't big enough to handle all of that traffic.

A new bridge is one of the solutions. However, that plan, commonly referred to as the Skyway Bridge, carries a price tag of up to $1 billion.

Another proposal involves building an eight-lane toll bridge right next to the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, with a similar design as the current structure. That plan could cost around $500 million.

State and local leaders have been talking about what to do about this pending problem since 2003. Padgett said state road projects are usually slow moving. She pointed to the Martin Luther King Bypass, which took 40 years to complete.

The state's environmental impact study is expected to be completed by 2014, according to Mike Kozlosky, the executive director of the group. He called today's move an "important step" in the process.

Following the completion of the study, the state DOT and MPO will work together to determine the best route.

A future traffic alert

Additionally, the MPO is discussed a project that is expected to cause traffic tie ups next year. The group is reaching out to the area's biggest employers now to warn them about construction on 421 that will start in 2013. The construction will reduce the road to 2 lanes near the NC Battleship. The improvement project is likely to cause major backups. MPO is trying to get the word out and encouraging employers to push carpooling to help cut down on traffic tie ups. Stick with WECT.com for the latest on the timeline of construction.

Copyright 2012 WECT. All rights reserved.

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