The Neuse River Bridge, an old four-lane swing bridge in North Carolina's Inner Banks Region, was replaced with a new four-lane fixed-span bridge structure in a new location, relieving congestion and providing more space for tourists in historic downtown New Bern.
Project Type:Bridge Project Mode:Highway Average Annual Daily Traffic:55,000 Length (mi):1.60
Economic Distress:0.96 Population Density (ppl/sq mi):136 Population Growth Rate (%):0.66
Employment Growth Rate (%):1.50 Market Size:41,067 Airport Travel Distance:2 Topography:1
Region:Southeast State:NC County:County
City:New Bern Urban/Class Level:Rural Local Area:N/A
Impact Area:County Transportation System:N/A GIS Lat/Long:35.097939 / -77.022084
Initial Study Date:N/A Post Constr. Study Date:2004
Constr. Start Date:1995 Constr. End Date:1999
Project Year of Expenditure (YOE): N/A Planned Cost (YOE $):120,000,000
Actual Cost (YOE $):120,000,000 Actual Cost (curr $):158,505,276
NOTE: All pre/post dollar values are in 2013$
Select a region to display the conditions for that region:
NOTE: All impact dollar values are in 2013$
|Income (in $M's)||0.55||0.33||0.88|
|Output (in $M's)||1.34||0.82||2.16|
The new Neuse River Bridge in North Carolina's Inner Banks Region was completed in November 1999 at a cost of $120 million. An old four-lane swing bridge was replaced with the new four-lane fixed-span bridge structure in a new location. The new bridge was built to bypass downtown New Bern, a small historic town and North Carolina's first capital. The bridge has encouraged downtown revitalization, reduced traffic times and congestion, improved emergency access for the region's main hospital, and opened up neighboring Pamlico County for development. The project has won three national awards for excellence in highway design. Approximately ten new jobs can be attributed to this project.
2.1 Location & Transportation Connections
The impact area of the bridge is in Craven County, NC and includes the towns of New Bern, James City, and Bridgeton. New Bern, North Carolina's first capital is a small, historic town 110 miles southeast of Raleigh, NC on the Pamlico Sound Coast, just west of Cape Hattaras National Seashore. The Neuse River divides Craven County into two sections: The City of New Bern, the Croatan National Forest, and the Marine Corps Air Station are south of the river. The area north of the Neuse River is more rural.
US-17, also known as Military Highway, is Eastern North Carolina's only major north-south artery connecting the region with the Hampton Roads, VA metro area (170 miles). Many military installations in both NC and VA line its path. US 70 connects with Raleigh, two hours' drive northwest. East of the Neuse Bridge, NC 55 connects the study area to the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula.
The bridge is one of only three roadway bridge crossings over the Neuse River in Craven County. The traffic volumes on the old bridge averaged 22,200 vehicles per day in the early 1990's. The previous two-lane bridge over the Neuse River would not have been able to handle the projected 40,500 vehicles per day by the year 2016, according to the Environmental Assessment for the project.
2.2 Community Character & Project Context
The Greater New Bern area has a population of around 30,000. Since 2000, the population of the historic city has grown by 9%, while the surrounding Craven County has lost population. Although Craven County's population has dropped slightly, the County gained 6350 new jobs since 2001, an 11% increase.
Government employs one-third of the County's workforce, reflecting the military presence in the area. Manufacturing provides 7.7% of jobs, 10% of the national average. Most jobs are in a diverse range of professional, health care, personal, and administrative services, retailing, restaurants, and hotels.
Pamlico County, on the north side of the bridge, has just 4900 jobs and 12,400 people. Most of this large peninsula is covered by marshland with several national wildlife refuges and a state park.? Relatively few people live in these areas because the low elevation and vulnerability to hurricanes and flooding.
The main goals of the bridge project were to
Neuse River Bridge project opened in November 1999 and cost approximately $120 million (1998$'s). Despite the five major hurricanes that occurred during the construction period, the project was opened ahead of schedule and without major claims. The project comprised several elements:
The previous bridge was in serious disrepair, and use of the swing-span caused traffic delays during the tourist season. A challenge from the start, the project called for the construction of a bypass of US 17 and NC 55 around the town of New Bern, making a nearly 2-mile, high-level fixed span crossing of the Neuse River and an adjacent interchange a necessity.
4.1 Transportation Impacts
From an NCDOT perspective, construction of the Neuse River Bridge has greatly reduced vehicle travel times and has significantly reduced congestion in New Bern.? Maritime traffic is no longer delayed by the infrequent openings of the swing bridge. ? Conflicts with rail traffic have also been reduced significantly since a significant amount of traffic that previously crossed the railroad tracks at-grade now cross at grade separated locations.?
The project was closely coordinated with aviation officials to make sure the bridge project did not adversely affect the airport during construction or after project completion.?The bridge is the largest single transportation project ever undertaken by NCDOT, carrying an estimated 55,000 vehicles per day across the river.
The bridge replacement greatly improved access to Pamlico County and improved vehicular access to the Morehead City-Beaufort area for motorists in eastern Craven and Pamlico Counties. This access is especially critical during times when the Minnesott Beach to Cherry Branch ferry is not in operation. In Pamlico County, Highway 55 is also being widened from two to five lanes to accommodate the increase in vacation and tourism traffic.
4.2 Demographic, Economic & Land Use Impacts
The new bridge was moved to a site south of downtown New Bern, where the original bridge connected. One of the main goals of the project was to divert traffic away from Downtown New Bern, which was a success. Broad Street, now a more important gateway to the downtown since the removal of the Neuse River Bridge, is the focus of streetscape and public redevelopment efforts in New Bern, such as the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center, a $13 million development project. Opened in 2000, it employs approximately 10 staff persons, with many vendors onsite for specific functions and events.
Much of the redevelopment in downtown New Bern has been the result of targeted downtown redevelopment organization, the Swiss Bear redevelopment organization. Since 1980, more than $100 million has been invested in public and private rehabilitation and new construction projects, such as the urban renewal of the waterfront. With this initiative, four new waterfront hotels, three marinas, new commercial office buildings, the riverfront convention center, a 121-residential condominium complex have been built. The $60 million NC History Education Center is scheduled to open in the summer of 2010. Approximately ten new jobs can be attributed to downtown revitalization that was sparked by the new Bridge.
Just recently in 2010, traffic calming measures have helped to reconnect New Bern's neighborhoods with the City's downtown historic district, supporting community cohesion. This project was consistent with the New Bern Urban Design Plan of 1990 (updated in 2000), which sought to "reinforce the strength" of Downtown New Bern and the Five Points neighborhood by providing a blueprint for planned growth. The project was particularly successful in removing the congestion associated with the seasonal vacation traffic ? these backups no longer occur in Downtown New Bern.
In the immediate vicinity of the bridge, little development has occurred as it is surrounded by protected wetlands. One important social impact was the improvement of emergency medical access for those north of the River. The old draw bridge often resulted in long delays for ambulances accessing the Craven Regional Medical Center across the Neuse River Bridge.
Difficult access had been a limiting factor in the development of Pamlico County before the new bridge was built. Improving the cross-river access to Pamlico County has opened up the Peninsula's development potential for retirees and tourists, with oceanfront properties and low cost of living. At present, Highway 55, which connects with the bridge in Pamlico County, is being widened from two to five lanes to accommodate the increase in vacation and tourism traffic.
The US 70 Corridor has experienced a lot of growth in recent years and this bridge is a vital artery for local business in the James City area and the Downtown New Bern areas. A key driver of traffic in the area was the expansion/relocation of additional personnel to the nearby Marine Corps base. The targeted downtown revitalization effort of the last 30 years has helped to capture the potential presented by removal of the bridge and has improved the region's both the environmental and the business climate significantly.
As a result of the increased desirability that the combination of factors has brought about, the New Bern region has experienced an increase in retiree in-migration, as its desirability as a retirement community has been enhanced. The number of residents over 65 increased by 17.5% between 2000 and 2007. Tourism has elevated the region's image ? with nearby beaches in Morehead City, the historic colonial designation of New Bern as the first state capitol of North Carolina, and the national and state wildlife reserves on the Pamlico Peninsula, and the proximity to Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks, there is something for everyone.
Another element is that the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station has continuously enlarged with the past few rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) processes. The last round in 2005 will relocate several units from the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, PA.
Environmental Assessment from North Carolina Department of Transportation, 1994.http://www.cravenedc.com/profile/profile.cfmhttp://www.eccog.org/common/ewe/documents/CEDS2007.pdf
OrganizationPlanning and Inspections, City of New Bern, North Carolina East Carolina Council of Government STV/Ralph Whitehead Associates North Carolina Department of Transportation Craven County Economic Development Commission Planning and Inspections, Craven County, North Carolina. Swiss Bear Development Authority New Bern Riverfront Convention Center