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Update On U.S. 421 Infrastructure Project

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Sep 22, 2017
The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is gearing up for water and sewer construction beginning in January, aimed at providing the infrastructure needed for further development along the U.S. 421 industrial corridor.

Advertisements for construction bids on what officials called the “backbone of water and sewer infrastructure” in the industrial corridor are set to begin this month, said CFPUA Director of Engineering Carel Vandermeyden.

Designs for the project have been finalized.

“We are finalizing the necessary easements and permits needed for the project,” Vandermeyden said in early September, adding that the goal is to have bids in hand by November.

During the 18-month project, which spans 6 miles along a U.S. 421 corridor from the Isabel Holmes Bridge north to the Pender County line, crews will be tasked with putting in between 35,000-36,000 feet of water and sewer lines, as well as connecting additional infrastructure across the Cape Fear River to the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant.

The project is expected to be completed in early summer or fall of 2019.

The project is estimated to cost between $16 million and $18 million for construction, Vandermeyden said.

CFPUA will largely cover the costs of the project, which got a boost through funding provided by a portion of the voter-approved, $2 billion statewide Connect NC bond. In that bond, the state provided more than $16 million to CFPUA, allowing the utility to free up money for the 421 project.

A portion of funds is also coming from the county. Under its current agreement with CFPUA, the county will make contributions of $525,000 for the next three years to CFPUA to fund fire flow for a total of about $1.6 million, according to the county. The first of the payments were approved in the 2017-18 fiscal year. But, as the project goes out to bid, county officials said these amounts may change.

There’s excitement about the potential of those essential utilities along U.S. 421 in the coming years in bringing business and jobs to the region, said Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development.

“We are very pleased with the county commitment to extend those most important utilities up that corridor,” he said. “We think that is going to be a very important move toward solid recruitment of business and industry with the proper utilities in place.”

A report conducted prior to the project identified almost 1,000 acres of developable land along the corridor, Vandermeyden said.

In the Garner Report – an economic development target analysis report for the city and county done by consulting firm Garner Economics in 2014 – recommended extending water and sewer infrastructure to develop more industrial sites that can be marketed for potential users.

“One of the overarching priorities that came out of that report was rebuilding, and in some instances, building the infrastructure throughout the county,” New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet said.

Having water and sewer services available to the corridor makes undeveloped land “shovel ready,” Vandermeyden said, adding that the new infrastructure could be a competitive advantage for business looking to locate to New Hanover County. In addition, the fire hydrants add another benefit to business in both safety and obtaining insurance, he said.

Coudriet added that the water and sewer lines are “absolutely critical” for businesses to expand and for officials to attract new business to that industrial corridor.

“That is the identified primary industrial corridor in the county, and it is largely undeveloped.
And I think it’s reasonable and safe to assume much of the underdevelopment is because there has not been water and sewer available along that corridor,” Coudriet said. “The expectation by funding the water and sewer infrastructure – because it is what site selectors and other business owners have said is the defect – by funding that, the board of county commissioners expects that we will see extensive development along that corridor over the next 20 years.”
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