The purpose of the U.S. 17 Business/N.C. 37 improvements project is to provide a direct, reliable route between the towns of Hertford and Winfall in Perquimans County.
The project includes improvements along U.S. 17 Business from the south end of the Perquimans River Bridge in Hertford to the intersection of U.S. 17 Business and N.C. 37 in Winfall – a distance of approximately 0.4 miles.
The existing causeway is settling unevenly due to poor soils under the roadway, and the bridge across the Perquimans River, known as the "S-Bridge" is weakening due to its age.
News and Updates
National Historic Preservation Act Consultation Underway
Although this project is state-funded, federal permits will be required from the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires federal agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties and afford the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation a reasonable opportunity to comment. The Coast Guard is the lead federal agency for the project, which means it is the agency responsible for meeting the requirements of Section 106.
The existing swing-span bridge is in the Hertford Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, the bridge itself is considered eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Through coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office, it has been determined the selected alternative for the project (Alternative D-Mod) will have an adverse effect on the Hertford Historic District and the existing bridge.
Section 106 requires federal agencies to consult with the State Historic Preservation Office and other interested parties on actions that will have an adverse effect on historic resources. The Coast Guard has initiated this consultation, which will include a memorandum of agreement that will be prepared between the Coast Guard, the N.C. Department of Transportation, the State Historic Preservation Office and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. This memo will outline steps NCDOT will take to minimize and/or mitigate the project's adverse effect on the historic district and the existing bridge.
Next steps for the Section 106 consultation process will be to meet with the public regarding potential mitigation options for the project. It is expected the public meeting will be held in the spring or summer of 2016.
Following completion of the Section 106 consultation, NCDOT will prepare the State Finding of No Significant Impact (SFONSI), which will document the final decision. The approved SFONSI will be posted to the project website (anticipated late summer 2016).
Final design for the project will begin following completion of the SFONSI. Right-of-way acquisition and construction are scheduled for 2018 and 2020, respectively, in the State Transportation Improvement Program.
Project Overview and Purpose
The purpose of this project is to provide a direct, reliable route between the towns of Hertford and Winfall. The current route is experiencing significant deterioration and ongoing maintenance problems, jeopardizing its ability to provide reliable direct connectivity. The existing swing-span bridge was built in 1929 and has a sufficiency rating of 6 out of a possible 100. A sufficiency rating of 6 does not indicate the bridge is unsafe because it evaluates the bridge in the un-shored condition, but does qualify the bridge to be repaired or replaced. The bridge costs approximately $60,000 a year to maintain, and was temporarily shored with steel crutch bents in 2007 and concrete jackets in 2008.
The causeway north of the bridge has been damaged by settling of the earth under the road. It has been closed several times in the past few years. In each case, the failure resulted in the roadway collapsing, requiring the causeway to be closed for several weeks each time for repair. NCDOT has spent approximately $1.3 million in the past five years on repairs to the causeway.
Public involvement is an important part of the project development process. NCDOT encourages citizen involvement with transportation projects and will consider public suggestions and address their concerns. NCDOT has reached out to the public through newsletters and postcards, two meetings with small groups, and citizens informational workshops/public meetings in April 2010, June 2011, August 2012 and September 2013.
Public meetings to discuss mitigation options for the historic resources affected by the project are expected to be held in the spring or summer of 2016.
To add your name to the project mailing list, please send a message.
Project Development Process
The U.S. 17 Business/N.C. 37 improvements project is a state-funded project. Any agency that proposes a project involving state funds must comply with the North Carolina State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). SEPA is a law that requires state-funded projects to consider the environmental impacts of their proposals. A major part of the SEPA process is the preparation of an environmental document. Normally, a state environmental assessment would have been prepared for a state-funded project. In the case of this project, it was originally anticipated that right-of-way acquisition and construction would be federally funded, and a federal environmental assessment was completed in February 2013. However, NCDOT management, in conjunction with the General Assembly, has decided to fund the majority of the bridge replacement program with state funds. This is one of the projects that has had its funding source shifted. No federal funds will be used. Therefore, a state final environmental document will now be completed for the project.
This project followed the NEPA/Section 404 Merger Process, which combines portions of the Section 404 (of the Clean Water Act) permitting process with the SEPA decision making process. The merger process is a formalized agency participation program that streamlines the development of a project. A merger team, consisting of NCDOT, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the N.C. Division of Water Quality, State Historic Preservation Office and other federal and state agencies made decisions as a group and reached agreement on key aspects of the project. The merger team dissolved in January 2015 after all agencies agreed the project alternatives had the same amount of wetland impacts and therefore, the project should be taken out of the merger process. Click here for additional information on the merger process.
Alternatives Development Process
The project team carefully considers potential project design alternatives as part of the SEPA process. Alternatives are compared based on quantitative and qualitative analysis, public input and agency input. For this project, the alternative development process began in September 2007. During the process, NCDOT screened a combination of six bridge types on seven alignments. These were narrowed down to nine concepts to present to the public in April 2010.
It has been determined that rehabilitating the existing swing-span bridge is neither practical nor safe. A bridge rail would have to be added to the bridge to meet current safety standards. The existing bridge is too narrow to add the rail and still maintain two lanes of traffic. If rehabilitated, the bridge would have to be converted to one-way traffic, with opposing traffic routed along the U.S. 17 Bypass.
Following the April 2010 citizens' informational workshop and a merger process meeting in October 2010, five alternatives were selected for more detailed study and were presented at the June 2011 citizens' informational workshop. An additional two alternatives were presented at the August 2012 Citizens Informational Workshop. In October 2012, NCDOT and the merger team chose three alternatives to be analyzed in the environmental document, which were shown at the September 2013 public hearing. Following the public hearing, NCDOT selected Alternative D-Mod 33 Fixed-Span Bridge as the preferred alternative for this project.
Following a July 2014 Hertford Town Council meeting at which NCDOT attended and answered questions regarding Alternative D-Mod, the department was asked to provide additional information regarding Alternative B, which would construct a new swing-span beside the existing bridge. More detailed surveys were completed and NCDOT refined the designs of both alternatives, further reducing impacts in the Hertford Historic District. NCDOT representatives presented the updated designs and project maps for both alternatives at a public meeting in November 2014.
In January 2015, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)/Section 404 merger team for the project determined that since all three design alternatives had the same amount of wetland impacts, the project should be taken out of the merger process. Following this action, the department decided to proceed with its selected preferred alternative, Alternative D-Mod.
Why Was This Alternative Selected?
Alternative D-Mod was selected for several reasons, including:
- It does not change current travel patterns through downtown Hertford.
- It does not increase traffic on Edenton Road Street, which was a concern of Alternative E due to potential impacts to residents and a high school.
- It has less overall effect to the town of Hertford as a whole than Alternative E.
- It would require closing the existing route for the shortest period of time. Most of the bridge can be constructed without closing the existing bridge.
- It would require less maintenance than a swing-span bridge.
- It does not require a bridge tender and therefore has the lowest construction and operation/maintenance cost compared to the other alternatives and is the most fiscally-responsible design.
Joseph Miller, P.E.
NCDOT Project Planning Engineer
Send a message
1548 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1548
Teresa Gresham, P.E.
Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.
Send a message
P.O. Box 33068
Raleigh, NC 27636-3068
Resources for Local Property Owners
In many cases, it is inevitable that a certain amount of private property must be acquired. The displacement of homes and businesses is minimized to the extent practicable. The following brochures will answer questions about this process.