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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Council to consider supporting second grant application for CF Memorial Bridge replacement

Cape Fear Crossing could relieve congestion on Cape Fear Memorial bridge and improve traffic and freight flow between Wilmington and Brunswick County. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
NCDOT will apply for another federal grant to help offset the cost of replacing the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. (Port City Daily/File)

WILMINGTON — The North Carolina Department of Transportation is gathering support for another federal grant to be used to offset the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge replacement’s price tag.

READ MORE: Vote moves toll option forward to see if CFM Bridge replacement scores higher with NCDOT

The Wilmington City Council will review a resolution backing the grant application at their meeting on Tuesday at the behest of council member Luke Waddell, who also serves as vice chair of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. 

The resolution would need to be passed by April 26. The deadline for the grant is May 6. 

The money would come from the Multimodal Project Discretionary Grant, which contains three grant programs awarded on a competitive basis. The funding opportunities are for surface transportation infrastructure projects — highway and bridge, intercity passenger rail, railway-highway grade crossing or separation, wildlife crossing, public transportation, marine highway, and freight projects, or groups of such projects. 

The project must have “significant national or regional impact, or to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas.” It adds the bridge is a critical element in facilitating freight movement to and from the Port of Wilmington, ranked number 1 as the most productive port in North America and 44th in the world for 2022. Its importance is integral to the regional economy.

The resolution states the CFMB’s linking of US 17, US 76, and US 421 over the Cape Fear River has been an “indispensable conduit for regional transportation and economic development.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation anticipates the opportunity will award approximately $5.1 billion for this round from FY 2025 and FY 2026 funding.

Costs to build the bridge anew is estimated to be roughly $430 million for a 135-foot fixed bridge with six lanes. 

This recent grant comes behind another NCDOT has applied for through the federal Bridge Investment Program. City council signed a resolution in support of it as well.

The replacement bridge has struggled to get funding through the NCDOT due to its high cost and the continued maintenance on the project that keeps it out of the top priority slots in the department’s rating system.

Earlier this year, the WMPO voted to submit the project in two ways: one with a toll that would apply to drivers and one without that is all but guaranteed to remain unfunded. 

Alongside the WMPO’s vote, NCDOT assured local leaders it would be aggressive in its pursuit of federal grants to offset the overall cost of the bridge and thus a toll on residents. The multimodal grant would be the second application submitted so far.

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