This week the proposed third bridge over the Cape Fear River, known as Cape Fear Crossing, was the topic of two public meetings. Hosted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the sessions highlighted the six proposed routes.
WHQR's Vince Winkel has this report.
“Good evening. Welcome you all here tonight and those joining us via Facebook live to the North Carolina Department of Transportation's corridor public hearing for the Cape Fear Crossing project, also known as State Transportation Improvement project number U4738. My name is Jamille Robbins. I will be your moderator for tonight's public hearing…..”
More than 600 people packed the North Brunswick High School gym Tuesday evening for the second public meeting on Cape Fear Crossing.
Attendees were young and old. Retirees and entrepreneurs. But most all of them now share one thing in common.
“Oh my God, I want to get out.”
Rhonda Florian moved here three years ago.
“If I understand the route correctly, I'll be able to open my front door and look out and see the trucks and the containers in the air. They'll be close enough. I'll be able to read the writing and see if they came from China or South America or wherever they came from.”
Rhonda and her husband came to Brunswick County for health reasons. Her husband has M.S. She is his caretaker.
“Our health has improved dramatically. I grew up in New Bern, but my husband is a Jersey boy. And our health improved dramatically because of the climate and the serenity. The peace, the quiet, the calm. Now the noise, the confusion, the chaos, the pollution, the light pollution that this will bring will absolutely destroy any kind of peaceful life in this home.”
That’s a common refrain at the meeting along with a big question: what about the value of my home?
There are six designs currently on the table connecting Brunswick and New Hanover Counties via the new bridge. At this week’s meetings, DOT officials posted large maps showing each route and which neighborhoods it would dissect or pass by.
“This is a key map to show the relationship of all the alternatives to each other.”
Jamille Robbins is the public involvement, community studies and visualization group leader with the Department of Transportation. He moderated the meetings.
“We don't have a preferred (route). We want to go through the process and present it all to the public and you know, let public feedback and the data drive us in one direction or the other. But I believe the MPO has supported MA.”
MPO is the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization. They will have a say in which route is selected. The MA that Robbins mentioned, is a southern option that would begin at the U.S. 17 – I-140 interchange, wind just south of Brunswick Forest, and ends at Independence Boulevard in Wilmington.
(SCROLL DOWN TO VIEW THE NC DOT PROJECT MAPS AND PLANS HERE)
It’s important to note that Cape Fear Crossing is still very early in the planning stages. The designs on the table are not finalized. The public comment offered this week could have an impact on the direction of the project.
(VOXPOP – speakers)
“We planned to live in the home until we were forced to move by the illness, old age or death. We now find that we might be forced to move……”
“There's no adequate noise pollution protection at all. What these people are saying here is not going to touch the noise unless you're building a two story wall because these on ramps, off ramps, 18 wheelers gearing up and gearing down, and that's what it is. Motorcycles. That's what you hear ….”
“So as I understand it, the state of North Carolina intends to destroy over a hundred million dollars worth of private and commercial real estate in the town of Leland. Wrap your mind around that. What town can survive a hit like that. If a hurricane caused this kind of destruction, the governor would issue a state of emergency there would be national assistance…” (fade)
No one who spoke questioned the need for a third bridge over the river. The goal of the project is to improve traffic flow and enhance freight movements to the Port of Wilmington. No one debates that both counties are growing, especially in and around Leland.
What concerned citizens continue to question is where the bridge will sit. How many homes will be displaced.
Joanne Donaghue is one of the leaders of Cape Fear Crossing Coalition, or CFC3.
“There are six proposed routes at this time and we have concerns with all of them.” “We believe that what makes the most sense is to have the NC DOT push out modestly the study area to push those routes out another half mile. And we think that is feasible. They have not been interested in doing so, but we hope that they will do so.”
That means looking at options further south, which would mean no loss of residential properties, but a larger bill for the project.
The Cape Fear Crossing bridge will be a Federal-Aid Highway Project. It would be constructed under the State-Federal Aid Highway Program.
That means federal funds financing 80 percent of the project and the state covers the remaining 20 percent.
The project estimates range from $619 million to $995 million.
Jamille Robbins of the DOT says North Carolina is considering tolls to help pay for the project. That’s because the right-of-way acquisition and construction are currently unfunded.
Right-of-way acquisition costs are for buying out residences and businesses that need to be moved, and all associated expenses. That itself could cost between $100 and $250 million.
With the public meetings now in the rear view mirror, the Department of Transportation will review all comments. The department will accept comment through May 16.
“And so what we want from this phase of the process is to select the location of the project. So once we have this location selected, then we can get into more detail, and designs. We can gather more data and figure out where to roadway it needs to fit within that band.”
The DOT says actual construction of the roadway remains years away.
VIEW THE NC DOT PROJECT MAPS AND PLANS HERE