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Yadkin River Bridge Project only receives $10 million in TIGER Grants; NCDOT to consider other financing methods

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, NCDOT only received $10 million in TIGER Grant Funding for the I-85 Yadkin River Bridge project.  The state had applied for the maximum of $300 million for this project.  Though NCDOT was pleased to receive money for the needed project, they were disappointed, "Obviously the $300 million would have enabled us to build it faster, and be able to use those resources for other transportation needs in North Carolina. We’re extremely disappointed," said Ted Vaden, an NCDOT Deputy Secretary.

The overall project - building a new eight-lane Yadkin River Bridge, widening a total of eight miles of I-85 on both sides of the new bridge, and rebuilding interchanges - is estimated to cost closer to $400 million.

The Salisbury Post reports that the $10 million will basically cover administration costs that will be used to achieve additional funding to construct the bridge.  As part of the awarding of the grant, NCDOT is eligible for "optional innovative financing enhancements to support a direct loan for up to one-third of the project costs" or Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loans.  TIFIA loans, similar to what the NCTA received last year for the Triangle Expressway, allow state and other DOT's to receive "federal credit assistance in the form of direct loans, loan guarantees, and standby lines of credit to finance surface transportation projects of national and regional significance."

Of course, this money would need to be paid back.  And according to an interview with the Charlotte Observer's Mary Newsom, North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said without a revenue stream to repay the TIFIA loan it is best to take the cash.

So my initial thought was that the proposals to toll the Yadkin River Bridge may resurface.  But, I am incorrect.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer's Bruce Siceloff, NC DOT will use "...$150 million in federal GARVEE bonds -- basically a loan against future federal highway dollars -- plus $20 million in other state funding and the $10 million federal stimulus grant..."

So that's only $180 million...what about the remaining $200+ million for the whole project, you may be asking?.  Well, it's going to be put on hold.  NCDOT will now only construct the new eight lane Yadkin River Bridge.  The highway widening and reconstruction of Interstate 85 north of the bridge will be put on hold.  So the bottleneck will still exist from the Yadkin River to Business I-85 (Future I-285) near Lexington.  (Roughly from bridge to mile marker 86).

NCDOT plans to place the contracts for the new replacement Yadkin River Bridge out to bid this coming April.  Construction may start as soon as this coming October.  Construction is expected to last three years.

The good news - the 55 year old Yadkin River Bridge is going to be replaced.  But the Yadkin River Bridge area on I-85 is going to continue to be a choke point for years to come.

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