NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The N.C. Department of Transportation will not continue planning and design work on the Cape Fear Crossing highway-bridge project at this time.
The department had initially considered six different corridors for the project that would have connected U.S. 17 and Interstate 140 in Brunswick County to U.S. 421 near the Port of Wilmington.
After collecting public input at well-attended open houses and public hearings earlier this year, the NCDOT had planned to select a preferred corridor by the end of the year.
“It’s a lot of years of hard work,” NCDOT Deputy Engineer Chad Kimes said.
That work is now at a standstill. North Carolina Department of Transportation Deputy Engineer Chad Kimes said the Cape Fear Crossing scored on the lower end in the latest state transportation improvement plan.
“The Cape Fear Crossing is a $1.1 billion project. The project only came in and got funded for $20.8 million,” Kimes said.
Kimes said that is not even enough to pay for a right-of-way corridor.
“We do not want to select a corridor until that whole corridor is fully funded for right of way,” Kimes said. “The last thing we want to do is go in there select a corridor and then draw a line over a bunch of businesses and homes and can’t purchase it.”
Brunswick County Commission Chair Frank Williams said there are mixed emotions about the decision.
“On the one hand, I’m glad DOT heard and responded to the concerns of the people who live in the areas that would have been affected,” Williams said. “On the other hand, this area is growing.”
What is next?
“We want to look at other avenues,” Kimes said. “What can we do differently to reduce the cost of a project and still provide that service to the traveling public, so we are going to look at replacing the existing Cape Fear Memorial bridge.”
In the meantime, Kimes said all the years of hard work and studies are not going to waste.
“We know where the impacts are. It lets us look at other places while this one settles down some, but we will find a way.”
This project can be considered for a future transportation improvement plans, if it is submitted by the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. It would then be scored again by local transportation officials and NCDOT and compete with other projects for funding.
Kimes said they are focusing on widening Front Street which could also help reduce congestion. He said the next possible time the Cape Fear Crossing could be funded is 2032.