Cape Fear Memorial Bridge replacement could come with toll

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WWAY) — The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, a Wilmington staple since 1969, could be replaced with a toll bridge.

During a meeting of the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO), the North Carolina Department of Transportation presented an unsolicited proposal from a private developer.

That developer would cover the $245 million cost to construct a new 135 ft. fixed bridge and demolish the old one, and pay for routine maintenance. They would recoup those funds by implementing a 50+ year toll on the new bridge.

The new bridge would have additional lanes and a pedestrian and biking path.

The proposal was presented as an idea rather than a concrete plan, but some on the WMPO committee have concerns about moving any further with it.

“For me this is a true paradigm shift in terms of having a toll road on one of the busiest bridges coming into our community, and the toll will last forever,” said county commissioner and WMPO committee member Jonathan Barfield. “I really want to fully understand the financial impacts of that on the citizens that I represent before I just go along with a vote to go to the next level, so to speak.”

Barfield says in addition to the toll concerns, the proposed replacement would impact homes and businesses in its path.

“What I don’t want to do is create uncertainty,” Barfield said. “Uncertainty for those folks that are living on Dawson and Wooster Street, uncertainty for the businesses that are there- ‘do I have to relocate my business?'”

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo also released a statement, saying:

“As Mayor of Wilmington, I would be remiss in not expressing serious concern with the proposal to replace the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge with a toll bridge.
For more than 50 years, the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge has served as a vital connection between Wilmington and its neighbors. A toll bridge would impose a new expense on the tens of thousands of daily commuters who rely on this bridge, which has major implications for our region.

This is a matter of equity for those who travel to work across this bridge every day to make ends meet. This is a matter of livelihood for Wilmington businesses and restaurants already struggling with labor shortages. This is a matter of quality of life for those in our historic downtown whose roads would be clogged and damaged by cars and trucks in search of the only remaining free route across the Cape Fear River.

Our residents pay the very same taxes as every other North Carolinian and expect that when basic critical infrastructure needs to be replaced, it would remain free and accessible to everyone. While I recognize this was an unsolicited proposal to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, which has an obligation to evaluate its merits as with any other proposal, I hope the department will take into consideration the many concerns about how this project would affect our community.”

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