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Town of Leland has numerous questions/concerns over Cape Fear Skyway

We've been documenting some of the concerns the town of Leland, NC has had over one of the routings of the proposed Cape Fear Skyway.  The northern routing option of the highway runs the closest to the town.

Leland Mayor, Walter Futch, has publicly come out against the highway.  He's stated that if the northern routing was built it would separate his town.

Leland's view is contrary to Brunswick County Commissioners, who on January 19th passed a resolution in support of the northern route.

The town has sent to the North Carolina Turnpike Authority 16 pages of questions in regards to the highway - from financing to routing to economic impacts.  Futch said he will not consider changing his mind until the NCTA answers the 16 page questionnaire.

The questions can be found here.

Story Link:
Alternatives to Skyway possible, officials say ---Wilmington Star News

Commentary:
There are a number of worthy questions from the town - but there are also a number of questions that I'm trying to figure out why they were asked.

Questions about cruise ships caught my attention.  The questions ranged from how many cruise ships would like to use the Port of Wilmington and cannot.  The town wants to also know the cruise line names and their specific reasons.   The last I read - the reasons for lack of cruise ships in Wilmington deal more with the Port of Wilmington than any highways. 

Another section of the questionnaire was on the Port of Wilmington.  One question asked: "If the Port of Wilmington is important to maintain, why not look for a bridge crossing up river from the port?"  This question ties into Futch's contention that a second bridge should be built parallel to the existing Cape Fear Skyway Bridge.  At the January 22nd workshop, the parallel bridge was mentioned by a member of the NCDOT.  Futch said this was the first time this suggestion was ever mentioned by a state official.

The proposed northern route saw the most in depth questions in the document.  Some of the more interesting questions include:

  • Why has it taken four years to think of the Northern alternative through Brunswick County? Is it possible that a better alternative might be found if more time is allotted?
  • What group of people came up with the Northern alternative? When was it first proposed? Who are the members of that group? Who outside the group participated in the process? Are there minutes of that meeting or meetings? Where would they be found? At what point did the Northern alternative become evident?
  • I have heard Mr. Earp of Brunswick Forest state that he offered a much more southerly alternative which would not affect as many residents or as valuable land. Why has this alternative not been revealed and added to the mix of alternatives? Doesn’t the NEPA* process require looking at all the alternatives available during the EIS process? Why has this alternative not been added to the possible corridors on the map?
  • Will the proposed exit on Highway 17 create a commercial district that the Town of Leland can take advantage of?
I take objection to the "I have heard Mr. Earp...offered a much more southerly alternative..."  Asking a question based on rumor is never a good thing.

The financing questions highlight the uncertainty on how many of the NCTA projects will be financed.  Questions that other NC residents facing a toll project are certain to ask.  With suggestions to toll existing free highways, gap financing, the I-485 design-build-finance project all swirling around this and other toll projects, I applaud the Town of Leland for asking them and anticipate NCTA's response.

I am unsure if these questions are typical from a town, organization, or any other community or group in regards to a highway project like this.  While there are many questions that have merit and are questions many in the state have about the NCTA, a fair number of the questions seem trivial and unimportant. 

As the Town of Leland asks in their final question, "Has anyone asked these questions before? If so, are the answers readily available somewhere? If not, why have they not been asked?"

Hopefully when the NCTA answers these questions, their responses will be made available to the public.

Comments

Pat said…
Hi, Guys: The reason for cruise ship questions submitted to NCDOT is because attracting this industry is one of the stated goals of the City of Wilmington. The height of the Skyway Bridge, they feel, would enable larger ships to use the Port of Wilmington. We were attempting to illicit what information led them to this conclusion. We are also hearing about the new International Port in Southport. Imagine that the plan is then to remove the Port of Wilmington and open up lots of valuable waterview acreage for development.

A recent editorial in the Star News (1/31/10) espousing the visionary view of the Skyway states, "If built as designed with its soaring towers, it also would be a breathtaking entryway into Wilmington and a landmark."

I realize some of the questions brought up may seem trivial or not pertinent, but they were asked because these subjects have come up in meetings with MPO and others.

You'd be surprised how many residents still don't realize that the only way we can have the Skyway is if we pay tolls, not only to use the bridge, but also to use the I-140 Bypass. And, as you know, even with these tolls, it won't be enough to pay for the project. The state will have to commit to $40-$50 million a year in gap funding.

The last I heard, NCDOT has declined to answer any of the questions. At the January 22 meeting, you heard the word IF used a lot. Absolutely nothing in the proposed planning is guaranteed: not the money - not the routes/northern corridor - not the NEPA certification - not the new International Port - nothing.

In the meantime, the immediate completion of at least two projects would bring significant traffic relief to the area and be a great boon to businesses: Completion of the "B" section of the I-140 Bypass (which is shovel ready -- and -- includes a bridge) and a widening of the Rts. 17, 74,76,133 Causeway between Brunswick County and New Hanover County.

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