MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Department of Transportation has narrowed down its options for a proposed project to extend Bridges Street to two alternative routes and will hold a public input meeting later this month to gather feedback on the proposed design.
The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 20 at the Crystal Coast Civic Center, 3505 Arendell St. in Morehead City. There will be no formal presentation, but attendees can come any time between 4 and 7 p.m. to review the latest plans, ask questions and share their thoughts with NCDOT representatives.
The purpose of the project, according to NCDOT, is to relieve traffic congestion on Highway 70 and improve overall mobility between Morehead City and Newport. It will also provide better access to the business park located on Business Drive.
The estimated $45 million project would add about 3 miles to the current Bridges Street Extension. As proposed, it would widen the roadway along Business Drive to Old Airport Road, then run westward on a new route before tying in to Highway 70 in the vicinity of McCabe Road.
NCDOT will present two alternatives routes for the new roadway at the upcoming public meeting – one along Old Murdoch Road and one just west of Sam Garner Road. At the last public meeting held in July, the department also presented an alternative along Gladys Teasley Lane, which has since been eliminated.
Project manager Liz Workman said the two routes currently under consideration have been tweaked some since they were last presented, and the department felt they should be brought back before the public for further input.
“The two routes are very different (from each other). They both fulfill the purpose of the project and we’re interested to see what people think of them,” she said Friday.
Ms. Workman said the department eliminated the Gladys Teasley Lane alternative because, although it was similar in scope to the Old Murdoch Road option, it would have had greater impact to the surrounding wetlands, increasing the project cost.
For the Old Murdoch Road alternative route, NCDOT presented two options to the public last July – one with walls and one without. Ms. Workman said the option with walls affects fewer homes than without, reducing the number of residents who would have to be relocated. Therefore, the Old Murdoch Road option without walls has also been eliminated.
As for the Sam Garner Road route, it is now located a bit west of the actual road, a change from what was presented in July. Ms. Workman said the department heard feedback from people who claimed they would support a more westward route than what had been presented.
The new Sam Garner West alternative, as NCDOT is calling it, primarily cuts through farmland and impacts fewer homes than the original route.
“Since that’s not what was technically presented last time, it’s going back to the public so they can see it and comment on it,” Ms. Workman said.
A public comment period for the proposed project is open until Monday, April 22. After that date, Ms. Workman said the department will gather all the feedback and meet with various stakeholders, including engineers, environmental agencies and local leaders.
Ms. Workman does not have a firm date for when NCDOT will choose a preferred alternative. The department had hoped to have one by Christmas, but after receiving so much feedback, it re-evaluated and revised the alternatives under consideration.
According to the NCDOT project website, the state environmental assessment and the finding of no significant impact document is anticipated for completion in June.
Two groups in particular have been outspoken about the proposed project. Members of the Wildwood community and the Sam Garner Road community, both located in the vicinity of the proposed project, have each circulated petitions opposing the project and urging NCDOT to find an alternative route. However, representatives from both groups said in July they would be more supportive of a more westward route that would have less impact on the communities.
Ms. Workman said public input has been a key part of the project development so far, and NCDOT plans to keep taking comments into consideration going forward.
“We’ve tried to be proactive and have really tried to listen to the public on this project,” she said. “…We’re trying to find that balance between alleviating traffic while really considering the impacts to people.”
To date, more than 230 public comments and two petitions have been submitted to NCDOT, according to the project website.
To submit a public comment for the Bridges Street extension project:
• Attend the March 20 meeting and fill out a written public comment form.
• Visit the website publicinput.com/BridgesSt.
• Contact Ms. Workman by phone at 919-854-6221, email email@example.com or mail P.O. Box 1587, Greenville, NC 27835.
• Contact consultant project manager Candice Andre by phone at 919-741-5346, email firstname.lastname@example.org or mail 940 Main Campus Drive, Suite 500, Raleigh, NC 27606.
Project maps and other information is available on the public input website and at ncdot.gov/news/public-meetings/Pages/R-5727-2019-03-20.aspx.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.