WMPO votes against supporting idea of toll bridge

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to not support the idea of a toll bridge over the Cape Fear River.

Late Wednesday afternoon, the WMPO voted on a resolution not to support the exploration of a potential public-private partnership.

That means, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization will not move forward to gather additional information on the concept of replacing the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge with a toll facility.

Before the vote, many people spoke out against the idea of a toll bridge.

Former Wilmington Mayor Spence Broadhurst spoke during public comment and opposed the idea. Specifically, because the bridge is a replacement project. He said no other area in the state is tolling their improvement projects.

LeAnn Pierce, mayor of Carolina Beach and member of the WMPO, said she has heard from her constituents who do not support the toll. She says her job is to represent those people so she couldn’t support the idea of the toll.

State Board of Transportation and WMPO member Landon Zimmer had strong feelings about the decision. “If you come forward and say no, then that sounds like to me that you don’t want to explore any options, so it’ll be back in the back of the line,” says Zimmer. “That’s not what we want, especially me being a local representing vision three, I want to replace the bridge.”

Ultimately, Commissioner Jonathan Barfield made the motion to not support the exploration of the toll. The motion passed 7 to 5. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says he’s pleased with the board’s decision.

“We did not want a double taxation for the citizens of this community, either here in Wilmington or in Brunswick County or in New Hanover County to cross that iconic bridge, and that bridge has been there for over 53 years now,” Saffo said. “Let’s look for some real solutions to the very serious issue about replacing the bridge.”

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