RALEIGH — The state may now move forward with replacing dozens of bridges in several economically distressed counties, including in Beaufort and Hyde.
Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced last week that the state received a $23 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s grant program called Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, which will be used to replace 77 bridges in Alexander, Allegheny, Beaufort, Duplin, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hyde, Iredell, Nash, Northhampton, Pitt, Sampson, Surry, Wayne, Wilkes, Wilson and Yadkin counties.
Of those 77 bridges, 63 are more than 50 years old, and two are close to 100: a 97-year-old bridge in Alexander County and a 98-year-old bridge in Wilson County.
The overall cost of the replacements is projected at $119.1 million, with the State Highway Bridge Fund paying for 58 of the structures and the BUILD grant covering the cost of replacing 19 weight-restricted bridges that could not be replaced using state funds, according to the announcement.
The new bridges will include weather and flood monitors to help provide better data and warnings about potential hazards. The sensors will provide critical information regarding weather conditions around the bridges to FIMAN, North Carolina’s Flood Inundation and Alert Mapping Network. Additionally, each bridge replaced will include conduit to allow for future expansion of broadband fiber, decreasing the cost to provide broadband service to rural and underserved areas.
“These extra funds will allow North Carolina to replace key bridges in rural areas to help farmers, industry, schools and communities,” Cooper said in a statement. “These bridges will be rebuilt better and smarter, to include flood monitoring and create more opportunities to expand broadband in areas that need it most.”
Many of the bridges to be replaced serve communities with agriculture and agribusiness interests and 19 are weight-restricted, which limits use by large trucks that often serve the agriculture industry as well as buses that take students to school.
“Good infrastructure is a critical lifeline for our rural communities and agriculture as ag products move from the field to consumers and overseas markets,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in a statement. “Improving these bridges will help reduce costs for agricultural haulers, which will help our farmers save money and be more competitive.”
Contracts to perform the bridge replacements will be awarded during the next two years and most projects will take less than a year to complete.