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New Hanover commissioners hear toll bridge proposal, but many questions remain unanswered

Cape Fear Memorial Bridge
Benjamin Schachtman
The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is running out of time, but the NCDOT is out of money. Now what?

At its Tuesday morning meeting, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners heard a presentation from the State Department of Transportation about replacing the Cape Fear Memorial bridge with a new toll bridge.

Everyone agrees that the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, built in 1969, needs to be replaced. The question is who’s going to pay for it, and how much will it cost?

According to Chad Kimes, Division 3 engineer for the state Department of Transportation, it won’t be cheap: “You’re looking at about $500 million.”

That’s money, Kimes says, the state doesn’t have...so a toll bridge could be the answer.

But County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield expressed his concern that a toll bridge will unfairly shift the cost burden to local residents. Without even knowing--at this point--what the toll will be.

“People want to know, you know what are they going to be paying," Barfield said.

Barfield is also worried how the new on/off ramps will affect the businesses and homes downtown.

“It will be devastating on the local economy...it will be devastating on local businesses here...it's not the right move," he said.

Commissioner Rob Zapple, along with Commissioner Barfield, expressed hope that Federal infrastructure money might pay for all or part of the bridge.

Answers to these and other questions will be available if the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization decides to move forward with the project.

Editor's note: Commissioner Rob Zapple is a member of the WHQR Board of Directors; the board is not involved in any editorial decisions.