January 31, 2024
Today, unfortunately, a vote was taken that has the potential to do real damage to the future of our region for decades to come. A majority of the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) members voted Yes to consider tolls to finance a replacement bridge over the Cape Fear River.
For a majority of local officials to voluntarily say to the state “Sure, go ahead and propose regressively taxing us, the users of this bridge, with a toll to pay for it,” is outrageous. We have talked with a lot of bridge users recently, and we haven’t met a single one who said: “Sure, go ahead, toll me to cross the bridge.”
What happened to “the will of the people” in that meeting today?
Let’s be clear: The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is owned by the state and needs to be replaced by the state, just as it replaces other critical bridges throughout North Carolina — AT ITS EXPENSE. Why the state transportation department bureaucrats think only users in this region should pay a share of the half-billion dollars or so to build a new bridge is unclear.
A toll is an unfair, regressive tax. We already pay state and federal taxes to build and maintain new bridges and roads every time we buy a gallon of gas. Why must we pay more?
Those voting in favor today will tell you it is only for a toll study. But make no mistake — the toll tax study vote today puts us on a superhighway to a toll bridge tax tomorrow.
In my County of Brunswick, large numbers of residents must cross the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge daily to work, go to school, visit medical facilities, as well as to enjoy the restaurants, concerts, and museums Wilmington has to offer. We are the workers, seniors, teachers, students, first responders, and other residents who use the bridge each day to live our lives.
Today’s votes will be well remembered this November. As the chair of the Brunswick County Democratic Party, I can guarantee you we will do all we can to make sure this issue is on voters’ minds when they head to the polls this fall.
A quote from this statement was published in a WWAYTV3 article by Sydney Bouchelle on February 1.