WILMINGTON -- North Carolina has found itself near the bottom of the list in a new study ranking the country's highway systems. The Reason Foundation's 17th annual report on the country's state highway systems takes into consideration bridge deficiency, road conditions and congestion. North Carolina ranks 41st in the nation in deficient bridges, with 31 percent of the state's bridges deemed deficient. It ranks 48th in urban interstate congestion, with more than 70 percent of North Carolina's interstates considered congested. Overall, North Carolina is 23rd in performance and cost-effectivenes. The local DOT division, which makes up the six surrounding counties, has replaced or has plans to replace eight bridges this year. Bridge Maintenance Engineer Amanda Glynn said, "They are moving at a good pace and of course in the future, we're going to continue to ramp up the bridge replacement program." Glynn said the department has started a more comprehensive bridge management program, which will allow it to focus on more timely replacement. She said, "This is a vast improvement over the programs of previous years and it's a trend that we anticipate will continue in the future." The Third Street bridge in Downtown Wilmington is eligible for replacement, scoring less than 50 on a scale of one to 100. It's a matter of getting it on the list. Concrete is falling from underneath and rebar is exposed. There are a number of nearby bridges scheduled to be replaced, such as the Surf City swing bridge, but it'll take years to get to them. Glynn pointed out that other projects are well underway. "The second bridge to Oak Island is under construction and Sunset Beach was one of our highest priorities for a long time and it's actually under construction." Construction is scheduled to begin next week on two Wrighsville Beach bridges over Banks Channel. The final inspection of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge's construction is scheduled for Tuesday. That will cause some lane closures Wednesday and Thursday from nine a.m. to three p.m.
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