CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The U.S. Department of Transportation today announced major infrastructure improvements, including $23 million in funding for North Carolina to improve the safety of 77 bridges in 17 rural counties as part of major infrastructure improvements.
While that money will help the state replace five structurally deficient bridges in Iredell County, the funding won't do much else to reduce the number of problematic bridges in the Charlotte area.
NCDOT identified almost $5 million worth of bridge replacement projects on SR 1577, SR 1892, SR 1896 and SR 1595 that will benefit from the federal grant funding.
Recent inspections show few people actually use those bridges, with one of them only carrying 60 cars a day and another 90 cars a day. The highest average traffic count for any of the bridges is 3,300 cars a day, according to state records.
"Our priority is always to the ones with the highest traffic, however, this program, because it was targeting rural areas, allows us to get these dollars to them faster," North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon said. " Because they're critical to supporting agribusiness and that's what this grant is targeting we found projects that would be most competitive through this grant process."
Trogdon traveled to Washington, DC to take part in today's announcement with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
"An effort was to made to rebalance the underinvestment in rural communities to address overlooked needs," Chao said during today's announcement.
Our Defenders investigation previously identified more than 1,600 bridges across the state that are considered problematic, including more than 140 in the Charlotte area.
North Carolina's greatly reduced the number of structurally deficient bridges since the fatal bridge collapse in Minneapolis in 2007.
With today's announcement, the state now has enough money to repair or replace even more of those bridges over the next decade, but even then, that will only cover one out of every five problematic bridges.
"With that improvement that we've already seen, we're going to continue that in the future and it will get us to our target," Trogdon said.
Of the eight structurally deficient bridges in Mecklenburg County, NCDOT reports five of them are scheduled for improvements between 2019 and 2022. The improvements for two others are not yet decided and another is not yet scheduled, according to a spokesperson.
In addition to replacing the Iredell County bridges, Trogdon said NCDOT will add broadband capabilities and stream gauges.
"If you're a business owner that's relying on these routes and these bridges, when the water floods, you'll know ahead of time that the flood water's increasing," he said.