Portion to be widened

This stretch of Highway 70 from roughly 4th Street in Morehead City to Radio Island will be widened from two to four lanes, and the high-rise bridge will be replaced with two, two-lane bridges. Preliminary work on the project recently resumed after being put on hold for months by the N.C. Department of Transportation.  (Stock photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — After being put on hold for months due to a state transportation department budget shortfall, preliminary work has resumed on a project to widen Highway 70 near the N.C. Port of Morehead City to four lanes and replace the existing bridge between Morehead City and Radio Island with two, two-lane bridges.

The county transportation committee heard an update on the project and several others from N.C. Department of Transportation representatives during the committee’s March 18 meeting via conference call.  

The bridge-widening project and others throughout the state had been put on hold until last month because of an ongoing budget crisis within NCDOT. Officials have stated the funding shortfall is from unexpected expenses due to a slew of natural disasters in recent years, including Hurricane Florence in 2018, as well as ongoing litigation with property owners.

NCDOT Division 2 project development engineer Jeff Cabaniss said the department has resumed working on the preliminary engineering, environmental studies and concept designs on the project. The project encompasses Highway 70 from roughly 4th Street near the port to Radio Island Road.

“The project proposes to widen US 70 to 4 lanes and improve access between (Morehead City) to the east by connecting to the Gallant’s Channel Bridge,” he wrote in an email to the News-Times. “This includes replacing the existing 2-lane bridge with 2, 2-lane bridges.”

During the transportation committee meeting, Mr. Cabaniss said NCDOT is currently working with Duke Energy, which has some utility lines in the project’s right of way.

Mr. Cabaniss said NCDOT plans to hold the first public meeting next winter, probably in the beginning of 2021. He said a construction timeline is not set in stone because of the recent funding issues, but it would likely be several more years before it can begin. In addition, Mr. Cabaniss said, because there isn’t a concept design for the project yet, a proper cost estimate hasn’t been completed.

“The important takeaway is that we are starting the project back up, we will be continuously performing the necessary preliminary engineering and we plan to have much more information to share with the public next winter,” he concluded in his email.

In other business at the transportation committee meeting, NCDOT representative Diane Hampton noted many of the county’s other upcoming transportation projects have been affected by the department’s funding shortfall. As such, she said construction dates may be moved around for some projects.

Some notable projects on the horizon for Carteret County include:

  • A new bridge over the Straits at Harkers Island.
  • Intersection improvements at Highway 24 and Highway 58.
  • Construct a roundabout at Live Oak Street and Highway 101.
  • Extend the Bridges Street Extension from Bridges Street to McCabe Road.
  • Construct a roundabout at Emerald Drive and Coast Guard Road.
  • Upgrade the intersection at Mangrove Drive and Emerald Drive.
  • Upgrade the intersection at Lennoxville Road and Live Oak Street.
  • Construct a roundabout at Loon Street and Emerald Drive.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

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