BEAUFORT - Update: A study conducted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation supports a current design for a Beaufort Bridge Bypass over Gallants Channel, according to the Carteret News-Times.
The Grayden Paul Bridge has reached the end of its useable life and the DOT was looking into bridge alternatives that bypass Beaufort. A new bridge design became controversial when it didn't run close to downtown Beaufort and wasn't high enough for ships with masts higher than 65 feet.
Earlier in 2012, the DOT began a study due to concerns received by the US Coast Guard. The study came back with less than 1% of the channel being used by tall masted ships over 65 feet.
Carteret News-Times states that 22 vessels of some 2,800 observed were taller than the current bridge plan.
Coast Guard officials have asked the NCDOT to take a look at nautical traffic in Gallant Channel between Radio Island and Beaufort before approval of a new bridge there.
After receiving multiple comments from concerned boaters, the Coast Guard has asked the DOT to do a study to determine what kind of ships use the channel. A current bridge design has a fixed span bridge set at 65 feet high. Some boaters think that's not high enough. Tall masted ships would not be able to make it under the bridge, and this has some Beaufort marina owners worried.
A document from Core Creek Marine makes a case against the new bridge, citing many tall masted ships would no longer have access past the channel. However, another local marina owner thinks a new bridge will actually provide some benefit.
"I think with what we as a community and as a state have invested, that we should move forward," Steve Tulevech said. Tulevech is the owner of Town Creek Marina.
Coast Guard officials said they couldn't ignore the community feedback.
"We received a number of comments from the boating public that there are a lot of tall masted vessels that exceed the 65 foot structure if it was built," said Waverly Gregory with the 5th Coast Guard District.
Gregory said once a study is complete on the channel, the Coast Guard will grant the permit necessary to begin construction of the bridge. Construction could begin as early September 2013.
A plan for a new bridge from Morehead City to Beaufort is raising some concern from community members.
The Grayden Paul Bridge is more than 50 years old. That's past it's serviceable life according to North Carolina Department of Transportation officials. A plan is in place to make a new bridge that will bypass the town of Beaufort.
Some business owners in the town think the new bridge could hurt business.
"It's the golden goose of the town," business owner Joe Stroud said. "When I was mayor of [Atlantic Beach], the golden goose was the beach. It was the sand and everyone looked after the sand. That's how downtown Beaufort is."
Stroud thinks traffic being diverted from the city will take tourist attention away from the downtown area.
However, other Beaufort residents think the bypass will make Beaufort a safer place to live.
"There is a danger whenever you have tens of thousands of vehicles traveling through town," Sam Sellars said. Sellars started a website with several other people in support of the bridge. "To have bicyclists and pedestrians dealing with all of that traffic you have a safety concern."
People with the DOT say work could begin next September, but they are waiting on a permit from the Coast Guard.