WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Cape fear Memorial Bridge just turned 50 years old, and as it gets older and busier, the Department of Transportation is exploring some new options.
On Tuesday, the Historic Wilmington Foundation hosted a Zoom meeting with the downtown community and an engineer from the NCDOT, where several possible replacement plans were laid out. The project is an undertaking that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
During the presentation, several people expressed concerns about the homes and businesses that fall right the the path of these possible replacement bridge layouts.
“We did our last major rehab about 10 years ago,” NCDOT Division Engineer Chad Kimes said. “We’re doing one now. We know we’re going to have to do the next one before eight years.”
With each rehab project, Kimes says it costs more and more money to maintain the current Cape fear Memorial Bridge.
“We just don’t have a bridge store to go get parts anymore,” he said. “Those are specially fabricated parts on that bridge, and the cost of maintenance are going to exceed replacement here pretty soon.”
An NCDOT feasibility study came up with four possible options for a bridge replacement. All four designs show the same basic layout – six lanes, a 22-foot median and 12-foot outside shoulders.
Option 1 is a 65-foot tall bridge with a fixed span, Option 2 is a 135-foot tall bridge with a fixed span, Option 3 is a 65-foot tall bridge with a movable span and Option 4 is a 135-foot tall bridge with a movable span.
Another possibility is including multi-use path along the bridge for walking or bicycling.
“If we get the multi-use path put on a bridge replacement, we will have to seek funding,” Kimes said. “It will not be part of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge replacement.”
The four plans range in price from around $200 million to over $600 million.
A major question people had for Kimes was about the homes and businesses that would be impacted by any or all of these layouts.
“Our right of way folks who work for NCDOT will go out and do an appraised value of their property,” he said. “They will make that offer to this property. They will offer them relocation assistance to a property. If they agree, then we acquire that property.”
Kimes says all four bridge replacement options are south of the current bridge to avoid the Wilmington Historic District.
“Our overall intention is not to tear down any homes,” he said. “It comes down to the best fit for the best options.”
Kimes says they still have a number of steps to go through in the process before any work can start. He says the bridge construction itself would take around two years, and the merger process as a whole would take around three years.
You can watch the full presentation here.