Commissioners plead with Perdue for bridge replacement

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
One of the first letters to land on Gov. Beverly Perdue’s desk after her inauguration will be from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
The message is simple.
A new Interstate 85 bridge over the Yadkin River is desperately needed and is essential to the economy of the state and the East Coast.
The current bridge, built in 1955, has been deemed structurally and functionally obsolete.
County officials are hoping that whatever federal stimulus money comes to North Carolina, a portion will go to build a new bridge.
County Manager Gary Page told commissioners this week that the county had prepared the letter and initially planned to send it before the inauguration.
But after talking to staffers, they suggested it might get lost in the transition.
Page assured commissioners the letter would be at the Governor’s Office Monday.
Commissioner Chad Mitchell suggested an earlier and perhaps unconventional delivery. “If you know anyone who’s going to the inaugural ball, have them deliver it.”
Mitchell noted that North Carolina could receive nearly $5 billion for highway and public works projects from the stimulus plan proposed by President-elect Barrack Obama.
“While I am philosophically opposed to this type of plan, I do believe that this money, if received, would be used to replace the Yadkin River I-85 bridge.
Mitchell said while it’s important to contact federal-level elected officials, ultimately the decision on spending the money will be made at the state level.
Local officials fear if the stimulus funds are divvied up on the same formula used for highway funds, the bridge project may not make the cut.
Here is a portion of the text of the letter signed by Carl Ford, chairman of the Board of Commissioners:
“Please accept this letter as a request from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners to personally review the need for the construction of a new I-85 bridge over the Yadkin River in Rowan County. The status of this replacement bridge has been in limbo for years without resolution. Approximately 385,000 vehicles per week travel the bridge that is the main connector between Greensboro and Charlotte.
” There have been numerous discussions concerning how to finance a replacement bridge with cost $400. Among the financial options have been a toll system, a congressional earmark, a statewide transportation bond referendum and funding from a stimulus package offered by President-elect Obama. No one has taken responsibility for determining what to do, including NCDOT. This a problem that will not go away and has a profound impact on the economic future of this arena of state.”
The letter included various newspaper stories and a DVD with TV news accounts related to the bridge.”
You may contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.