Effort to speed up toll projects advances in North Carolina

| Monday, August 08, 2005

The North Carolina House has given final approval to a bill tripling the number of potential toll-road projects in North Carolina. It also calls for speeding up construction of two coastal bridges.

The bill, which previously passed the Senate, now moves to Gov. Mike Easley’s desk for his signature.

One of the coastal bridges, the Bonner Bridge, spans Oregon Inlet on the Outer Banks. It is need of replacement, The Associated Press reported.

A provision in the bill – HB253 – would allow the North Carolina Department of Transportation to hire a company to design and build the bridge quicker than the Department of Transportation typically would be able to do by contracting out sections of the project.

Sponsored by Rep. James Crawford Jr., D-Oxford, the measure also would require the ends of the $150 million replacement bridge to be located in the same general area as the current span.

The state’s DOT would be authorized to license the construction of a private toll bridge “of more than two miles in length going from the mainland to a peninsula bordering” the Virginia line, Crawford wrote.

The toll bridge would need to be built by 2009.

In addition, Crawford’s effort would expand the number of toll-road projects that could be studied and built in North Carolina from three to nine.

Any toll project approved for construction would be paid with bonds repaid with collected tolls, The AP reported. Currently, there are no toll roads in the state.

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