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Article 38

May 04. 2007 1:00PM

Board to seek federal funding for I-85 bridge

BY GLEN BAITY
The Dispatch

The Davidson County Board of Commissioners on Thursday passed a resolution seeking federal funds to upfit one of the county's busiest corridors.

The resolution, which specifically calls for lane additions and the replacement of two bridges on Interstate 85 between Exits 81 and 86, was passed unanimously at the commissioners' monthly information meeting.

Commissioner Max Walser will carry the resolution with him when he meets with Congressmen Howard Coble and Mel Watt next week to convey the board's opinion on the pending Alcoa relicensure.

Commissioner Sam Watford, who recently discussed the Yadkin River Bridge with Rowan County Commissioners' Chairman Arnold Chamberlain, asked Walser to raise the bridge issue with legislators during his trip.

To reinforce the county's stance, Rowan is set to pass an identical resolution prior to Walser's trip.

"The interstate is a federal highway anyway," Watford said in an interview this morning. "We figured we could start at the top."

The North Carolina Department of Transportation defunded the project in 2005. DOT cited the high cost of the project and a lack of funds to complete it and other projects.

An estimated 60,000 vehicles cross the Yadkin River Bridge into and out of Davidson County each day. In a report released earlier this year, AAA Carolinas ranked the 52-year-old bridge as the 17th-most substandard in North Carolina. The same report classified the bridge as being structurally deficient.

The DOT evaluates bridges on a 100-point scale, assigning sufficiency ratings reflecting a number of criteria including width, age and structural integrity. The northbound bridge has a rating of 39.2 while the southbound bridge rates a 40.5.

The eight-paragraph resolution points out that bridges with a rating under 50 can qualify for federal replacement funds.

By passing the resolution, the county hopes to qualify for those funds. The document further cites the number of accidents that occur along the stretch of road as well as the route's presence in a county economic development corridor.

Watford said he hoped Senators Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole, both natives of the Triad, would be swayed by the joint resolution from the two commissions.

"If the political process actually works, this is a chance to see," Watford said.

Glen Baity can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 227, or glen.baity@the-dispatch.com.



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