Bolstered by recent funding, environmental studies are continuing to move ahead on the Cape Fear Crossing project.
A draft environmental impact study is anticipated for September with corridor public hearings in the fall, according to Mike Kozlosky, executive director of the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO).
The WMPO board recently allocated $750,000 to keep the Cape Fear Crossing project moving forward.
At the group’s May board meeting, these remaining funds were allocated, as requested by the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT), to keep studies going to determine the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative for the Cape Fear Crossing route, Kozlosky said.
The Cape Fear Crossing proposal
includes a new crossing over the Cape Fear River, as well as improvements, upgrades or new roadways to improve traffic flow between New Hanover and Brunswick counties and to enhance freight movements to and from the Port of Wilmington.
The project has been under study for several years. In December, the project's merger team eliminated half
of the 12 proposed routes for the crossing, including two that took it into Wilmington’s historic district.
Kozlosky said the board’s action in May was important “because the state has a policy that if it’s not funded through the prioritization process, the state does not work on the environmental document or the planning and design."
"With the WMPO funds, it actually keeps the project moving,” he said.
In February 2017, the board voted to allocate $750,000 towards the Cape Fear Crossing studies, along with other items. The cost to study the preferred route for the Cape Fear Crossing was estimated between $1.5 million and $1.8 million.
NCDOT had requested the second installment of $750,000 from the WMPO to complete the studies and has agreed to provide a 20 percent match.
The funds will help the project’s merger team narrow down to a single route that will eventually be submitted into a “record of decision” for the project. A record of decision is slated for March 2020.
About $10.5 million has been spent on project studies to date, according to the minutes of the May WMPO board meeting.
While funding has been allocated for the studies, right-of-way acquisition and construction costs have not been funded.