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WMPO votes against exploring proposal to replace Cape Fear Memorial Bridge with toll bridge

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 5:28 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) voted Wednesday against advancing an unsolicited proposal to replace the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge with a new toll bridge.

Mayor Bill Saffo issued a statement on the vote:

“I am pleased with the outcome of today’s vote in which the WMPO board rejected the proposal to replace the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge with a toll bridge. I look forward to working with our state and regional partners to find a responsible solution to replacing this iconic bridge that does not involve double taxing Wilmington residents.”

The vote Wednesday evening was a critical step. With the WMPO deciding not to move forward with exploring the proposal, it is essentially dead in the water.

The plan drew criticism from both residents and elected officials for the possible impacts it could have on drivers, traffic, and other unforeseen consequences. The NCDOT said it would not move forward with the proposal if the WMPO did not ask them to do so.

The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is about 50 years old and, according to the NCDOT, needs to be replaced. However, due to the current economic situation of the organization, staff has said it is unlikely that the bridge will be funded in the next 10 years.

The WMPO board comprises county commissioners from New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender counties as well as Wilmington City Council members and representatives from each municipality in New Hanover County, the Town of Leland, the Town of Bellville, and the Town of Navassa.

Some WMPO members and elected officials were staunchly opposed to the proposal, while others saw the vote to move forward with the exploration of the toll bridge as a risk-free endeavor.

One of the sticking points for those against the toll bridge has been the secretive nature of the proposal. The company that submitted it has not been named and the possible toll prices were not announced.

Members of the WMPO include:

  • David Piepmeyer, Pender County
  • Brenda Bozeman, Town of Leland
  • Charlie Rivenbark, City of Wilmington
  • Deb Hays, Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority
  • Mike Allen, Town of Belville
  • John Ellen, Town of Kure Beach
  • Jonathan Barfield, Jr., New Hanover County
  • Frank Williams, Brunswick County
  • Eulis Willis, Town of Navassa
  • Hank Miller, Town of Wrightsville Beach
  • LeAnn Pierce, Town of Carolina Beach
  • Landon Zimmer, NC Board of Transportation
  • Neil Anderson, City of Wilmington

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