March 12. 2008 9:00AM
Commissioners voice toll bridge opposition again
By SETH STRATTON
Commissioner Billy Joe Kepley was asked by N.C. Board of Transportation member
Nancy Dunn to informally poll the board's interest in an Interstate 85 toll
bridge over the Yadkin River. The result? None here.
"Nancy Dunn is greatly interested in that," Kepley said. "She is very
pro-toll. And this is not a vote, this is just the way that we lean. Because I
know he haven't had a meeting with Rowan County yet. And it could change any
way we might be leaning."
Kepley asked fellow commissioners at their Tuesday night meeting to call or
write him their opinions of a toll bridge, but most didn't need the week that
Kepley suggested to publicly denounce a driver-funded project for a free road.
"(Dunn) is well aware of how the commissioners generally feel about a toll
bridge over there. And the citizens, I don't think there has been anyone who
spoke in favor of having it," Commissioner Fred McClure said. "I don't need to
wait two weeks to give you where I'm leaning. I'm not leaning at all. I'm on
the other side, definitely opposed to a toll bridge on that road."
The N.C. Turnpike Authority reported that a toll bridge over the river is
possible, but the whole project including improvements to the U.S. Highways 29
and 70 bridge to Spencer and nearly seven miles of the interstate would cost
about $391 million. A new bridge could be open by 2012 or 2013 if county
commissioners, state legislators and local transportation planners signed off
on the project this year.
According to the authority's report, the tolls would vary from $1 to $4 for
cars and $3 to $12 for tractor-trailers. About 60,000 vehicles cross the
bridge each day. Last month, AAA Carolinas rated the bridge the 11th worst in
the state. To qualify for federal funding to replace a bridge, it must score
lower than a 50 on the state's 100-point rating system. The Interstate 85
bridge scored a 51.8 during its last checkup.
Kepley said he, Dunn, N.C. Department of Transportation Division 9 Engineer
Pat Ivey, County Planning Director Guy Cornman, Thomasville City Councilman
Neal Grimes and Lexington Mayor Pro Tem Larry Beck attended a DOT meeting
regarding the county's road priorities earlier this week.
Board of commissioners Chairman Larry Potts and commissioners Larry Allen and
Sam Watford also denounced a toll bridge idea. Commissioners Don Truell
and Dr. Max Walser were a little more open-minded to the idea of a toll.
Truell said a toll may be the only way the bridge will ever be funded.
"If you ask me where I'm leaning, I'm leaning towards not supporting a toll
bridge. But I am also interested in hearing more about what toll bridges do
and mean. I doubt it would change my mind, but I haven't completely closed my
mind, and I don't intend to till I hear more information," Walser said.
McClure said he wants to figure out how the state can change the way it
receives federal funding for projects like the bridge. He said the equity
formula used to distribute transportation dollars to states needs to change,
but nobody has told him how to do that. Kepley said the only way the formula
can change is if the legislators in Washington, D.C., do it.
In other news:
• Kepley said the proposed Interstate 285 designation of U.S. Highway 52
between Interstate 40 and Interstate 85 may be in jeopardy. Kepley said the
designation had been approved and was set to be included in the federal
interstate system in 2011 but additional costs have arisen.
The $2 million pricetag to bring the road up to federal highway standards has
jumped to $7 million, Kepley said, and the highway may never receive the
designation. Cornman said the road's shoulder width may have to be widened,
which could require more money needed to purchase right-of-way property.
Commissioners had hoped the interstate designation could have spurred economic
development along the corridor which runs from Winston-Salem to Lexington.
Kepley suggested the county request the state re-appropriate the $2 million it
has received for the interstate designation improvements to other projects in
the county if the designation falls through.
But Cornman said the N.C. DOT is talking with the Federal Highway
Administration to see if the $7 million cost to upgrade the road could be
reduced. The commissioners plan to request re-appropriation if they don't hear
any positive news from the administration in the next two meetings.
• Commissioners approved $500,000 to Thomasville City Schools to finish
various improvement projects at Thomasville High School and Thomasville
Primary School. The city schools are allotted $7 million from the 2005 bond
referendum and have already spent $5.2 million on the projects at the two
schools along with improvements at other buildings.
• The board approved $970,484 for a leachate storage tank to be located at the
Davidson County landfill. Leachate collection systems are required by state
• Commissioners re-appointed John Hedgecock, a strawberry farmer from Abbotts
Creek Township, and Jerry Black, the owner of a concrete company from Tyro
Township, to the county planning board for three-year terms. Tim Temple, of
the Reeds area, was re-appointed to the county zoning board of adjustments.
The board will next meet at 7 p.m. March 25 on the fourth floor of the
Davidson County Governmental Center in Lexington.
Seth Stratton can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 226, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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