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Gallants Channel Project will Take Several More Months to Complete

Posted on June 7, 2016

Motorists will have to wait until early 2017 for the new Gallants Channel bridge to open, several months later than the last estimate given, but still ahead of schedule.

Gov. Pat McCrory delivered that update Friday during a media tour at the construction site. He toured various points in the county, including the N.C. Port of Morehead City and White Oak Elementary School in Cape Carteret, and then moved on to a campaign event.

At his first stop, he spoke with N.C. Department of Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson and other NCDOT officials at the Gallants Channel Bridge project site.

“I think (it) will have an incredible impact on the Morehead City region, regarding better access by both cars and boats into the area – Beaufort, Morehead City, both,” he said of the $66.4 million project.

“And we’re excited about hopefully getting that bridge complete in the next eight to nine months. … I think it’ll be a vast improvement over the small (draw) bridge.” Gov. McCrory said the new bridge will be helpful to the travel and tourism industry here, and aid area fishermen and recreational boaters.

Earlier this year, area officials said the bridge was on track to be completed this fall, an entire year ahead of schedule. However, at Friday’s visit, NCDOT engineer John Rouse confirmed to the News-Times that cars are expected to be driving over the new high-rise bridge in early 2017. The reason for the delay was not given, but it was noted the project will still be ahead of schedule at that point.

During his morning visit to the port, Gov. McCrory commented on critical dredging needs to help the port and the progress being made at the bridge.

He said the state agreed to help fund dredging around the port, and that he spoke with Brig. Gen. David Turner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who will be making some phone calls “to help speed up the (dredging) process that is needed here.”

Two dredging projects are slated in the area this summer, with the inner harbor being dredged this month and the outer portion being dredged in August. According to Paul Cozza, CEO of the N.C. Ports Authority, a bid has not been awarded for the second project yet, but should be in the next few weeks.

In addition, Gov. McCrory said the Ports Authority and Army Corps hopes to slightly move the channel next year, which may help alleviate ongoing shoaling issues in the shipping channel.

Mr. Cozza told the News-Times that he believes the Army Corps hopes to have this accomplished by next spring, but a specific timeline has not been set at this time. This idea was first proposed several months ago, but no official word had been offered publicly until Friday on the subject.

In the long term, Gov. McCrory said a feasibility study will be conducted to see what solutions can be implemented to prevent future port and Army Corps leaders from dealing with the ongoing shoaling problems on a nearly annual basis.

Gov. McCrory said that Brig. Gen. Turner let him know Friday that Morehead City and Wilmington are “the top two ports of priority,” when it comes to dredging needs in the South Atlantic division.

“We are a committed partner and have a great relationship with the state of North Carolina as well as the North Carolina Ports Authority,” said Brig. Gen. Turner. He said the Army Corps’ goal and vision “is to help the nation solve some of its biggest engineering challenges,” and the shoaling issue at the port will be addressed.

Col. Kevin Landers, commander of the Wilmington district of the Army Corps of Engineers said commerce is very important to the state and “the ports are a direct alignment to commerce in North Carolina.” He said they will try to find a solution to the shoaling, so there is not an impact to the port here.

Mr. Cozza told the News-Times that shoaling issues has not caused any customers to turn away from the port yet, but they don’t want any concerns in the business community that there are constant issues at the port. He said that business is doing very well currently and is up 32 percent compared to last fiscal year.

Source: Carteret County News-Times

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