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State seeks federal grants for I-85 bridge project

Posted February 19, 2009 3:54 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— Gov. Beverly Perdue said her administration will try to tap into additional federal stimulus funds to replace the Yadkin River Bridge on Interstate-85 in Davidson and Rowan counties.

Perdue said Thursday the state is pursuing grant money created in the stimulus package signed by President Obama this week.

The discretionary grants were included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which includes $1.5 million for state transportation projects.

The grants range from $20 million to $300 million, which is the estimated cost of the bridge. Not more than 20 percent of the total money can be allocated to any one state.

The Yadkin River Bridge is 55 years old and one of the most traveled bridges in the state. Though the North Carolina Department of Transportation insists the bridge is still structurally sound, they say it requires immediate attention.

“The bridge right now is rated a 33 on a scale of 0 to 100. Anything less than 50 qualifies for replacement,” NCDOT Chief Operating Officer Jim Trogdon said.

Transportation officials estimate the project will create 9,000 thousand jobs.

NCDOT is expected to receive $838 million through the economic recovery plan. Of that amount, $735 million is allocated for highway and bridge projects and $103 million is set aside for projects involving aviation, bicycle and pedestrian, ferry, public transportation and rail.

But the package stipulates that half the money be spent on projects deemed "ready to go" in 120 days. State Department of Transportation spokesman Ernie Seneca said the Yadkin River Bridge won't meet that qualification, so the state had to apply for a discretionary grant for the project.

Kris Alpough, who often drives over the Yadkin River, would like to see the project taken care of quickly.

“I wouldn’t want myself or anyone else falling into the river because of somebody’s lack of funding for replacing the bridge,” Alpough said.

If the state is unable to secure a grant for the project, officials are working on other options including a toll or statewide bond. Those options would delay the project, NCDOT officials said.