Breaking news: Legislators know bridge is a problem

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka

Salisbury Post

Local legislators would like everyone to know they’re not living under a rock.

They realize that Interstate 85 north of Spencer will soon be eight lanes of highway choking down to four.

And they know that funds for widening the next section of I-85, including the Yadkin River bridge, are not currently scheduled.

State Rep. Lorene Coates, D-Rowan, says she knows “they’re having wrecks all the time down there now.”

“We’ve got to find a way to fund this bridge and replace this bridge,” Coates said this morning at the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s legislative breakfast at the Holiday Inn.

The I-85 widening project that would include the bridge is part of the state’s seven-year Transportation Improvement Program for 2007-2013.

But there are currently no funds scheduled for the $200 million project that would go from north of Long Ferry Road in Rowan County to N.C. 150 in Davidson County.

Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, introduced a bill in the past legislative session that sought funds so the I-85 section over the Yadkin River could be accomplished. It went nowhere.

“If something happens to that bridge,” Brock said, “… you’re talking about shutting down the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.”

Brock said the eight lanes going to four lanes creates “a major traffic hazard.”

State Rep. Fred Steen, R-Rowan, said Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, was traveling toward Raleigh once with billionaire David Murdock and UNC System President Erskine Bowles in his car and barely avoided a terrible accident on the Yadkin River bridge.

Overall, the local legislators complained that the state’s equity formula for distributing highway funds is really an “inequity formula’ benefiting eastern N.C. counties more than the more populous regions.

They supported the chamber’s call for revising the funding formula for road construction and repair and basing it on “actual miles driven” when giving priorities to road projects.

“That’s something all three of us are willing to fight for,” Steen said.

Full details of the breakfast will appear in Wednesday’s Salisbury Post.