On Thursday, Governor Roy Cooper, Federal Highway Administrator (FHWA) Shailen Bhatt and N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Secretary Eric Boyette highlighted a recent $110 million federal grant at the Alligator River Marina in Columbia. This funding, announced in January, will be critical to helping the state replace the Alligator River Bridge, a span vital to residents and travelers on North Carolina’s coast.
“Strong communities require strong investments in infrastructure,” Governor Cooper said. “Thanks to President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this funding will help replace the Alligator River Bridge and increase high speed internet access, making our eastern counties more accessible and strengthening North Carolina for generations to come.”
The project will replace the current Lindsay B. Warren Bridge, a two-lane, 2.8-mile swing span, with a two-lane high-rise bridge. The new bridge will be higher and wider than the current span, enabling boats and vehicular traffic to move without any interruption. Currently, more than 4,000 boats pass through the area each year, forcing vehicle traffic to stop while the swing span opens and closes. Also, the 60-year-old swing span occasionally experiences electrical or mechanical issues that can cause the bridge to get stuck for hours or even days. If the bridge is stuck in the open position, vehicular traffic must take a detour of more than 90 miles. If it’s stuck in the closed position, maritime traffic must use the Pamlico Sound as a detour.
The new bridge is expected to cost $294 million. The funding estimate also includes the cost to install broadband between I-95 in Rocky Mount and N.C. 12 in Nags Head, an area historically underserved by internet access.
The project is one of only nine transportation projects nationwide to receive the Mega Grant, which is part of President Biden’s historic infrastructure law. Mega Grants fund projects too large or complex for traditional funding programs.
“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is delivering results for the people of North Carolina, and this project is an excellent example of how these transportation investments are strengthening the local economy and improving safety and mobility for residents,” said FHWA Administrator Bhatt. “NCDOT was successful in securing one of the first grants announced under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new Mega Grant program, and we are proud to partner with transportation leaders in North Carolina to advance this critical project.”
The N.C. Department of Transportation applied for the federal grant in May. The new bridge will include 65 feet of clearance over the channel and will have 8-foot shoulders and railings of 4.5 feet. The current span has one-foot shoulders and a railing of 2-feet-10 inches.
The state agency has completed the environmental document and is working on completing right of way plans and acquisition. The final bridge design is expected to be complete this fall. NCDOT expects to begin the bidding process in 2024 with construction starting later that year.
“For decades to come, this bridge will make driving and boating safer, faster and more efficient for people traveling through this area,” said N.C. Department Transportation Secretary J. Eric Boyette. “From aiding in hurricane evacuations to improving our economic development prospects, this project is a great investment in our state’s transportation future.”