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Governor says state has applied for $300 million in federal funds for I-85 bridge

RALEIGH ó Gov. Bev Perdue said North Carolina has submitted a grant application for $300 million in discretionary grant money included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to use for the Interstate 85 Corridor Improvement Project, which includes replacing the bridge over the Yadkin River in Davidson and Rowan counties.
“Replacing this bridge is critical to preserving safety, travel and commerce along this vital interstate route and is an ideal candidate for recovery funding,” Perdue said. “These improvements are essential to ensuring that I-85 continues to move people and goods safely and effectively on a regional, statewide and national level.”
Perdue has been working with Transportation Secretary Gene Conti and North Carolina’s congressional delegation to obtain funding for the project. It also has received tremendous support from local communities and business leaders advocating for the project. Nearly 100 letters and resolutions of endorsement have been received to date and can be viewed on the project Web site.
“This project is an outstanding example of individuals on all levels coming together to help address a critical need,” Conti said. “Ongoing advocacy is essential to our efforts to secure funding for this project and make it a reality.”
The I-85 Corridor Improvement Project will complete an overhaul of the highway, bridge and rail infrastructure located along 6.8 miles of I-85 from north of Long Ferry Road (Exit 81) in Rowan County to U.S. 29-52-70/I-85 Business (Exit 87) in Davidson County.
The project would be completed under two design-build contracts, which allow project teams of designers and contractors to conduct design and construction work simultaneously to speed completion, at an estimated cost of more than $300 million.
I-85 is the most direct and heavily traveled route between Richmond and Atlanta. The stretch of highway included in this project currently carries nearly 70,000 vehicles per day, with traffic counts projected to more than double by 2030. Trucks account for 26 percent of the traffic along this portion of I-85.
Right now, this stretch has only two lanes in each direction, with narrow shoulders, sharp curves and closely spaced interchanges. The existing I-85 Yadkin River Bridge is outdated and narrow and is rated in poor condition and classified as both structurally deficient (having elements that need to be monitored and/or repaired) and functionally obsolete (outdated in design).
The total crash rate for this portion of I-85 is about 77 percent higher than the average crash rate for comparable roadways across the state, while the fatal crash rate is 80 percent higher.
The project is expected to reduce crash rates by 75 percent and improve traffic flow by alleviating bottlenecks. Improvements to the railroad tracks that cross under I-85 will increase track speed by 45 percent and accommodate future rail needs, including high-speed rail.
The project has the potential to create or sustain more than 7,000 jobs, and it is expected to result in economic benefits 12 to 17 times its cost. This stretch of I-85 is located in a region of the state that has been hard-hit by job losses, with both Davidson and Rowan counties qualifying as economically distressed areas under the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965.
The ARRA includes $1.5 billion in discretionary grants to be awarded to states for transportation projects. The grants will be awarded on a competitive basis and can range in size from $20 million to $300 million, with not more than 20 percent of the total money allocated to any one state.
Any discretionary grant money received would supplement the $838 million that NCDOT already has received through ARRA, including $735 million for highway and bridge projects and $103 million for public transit. North Carolina also has received nearly $24.4 million in discretionary grant money from the Federal Aviation Administration for improvements at four airports across the state.
In addition, NCDOT has submitted a grant application for discretionary ferry money included in the ARRA and also is pursuing a share of the $8 billion the act is putting toward the deployment of high-speed passenger rail systems and improvement of intercity passenger rail, to use for further development of the Southeast High-Speed Rail corridor between Charlotte and Washington, D.C.
For more information about recovery funding for transportation in North Carolina, visit www.ncdot.gov.
Comprehensive information about the project is available at www.ncdot.gov/recovery/i85corridor/.

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