NC DOT Explores new Bridge Options in Lake Lure

An aerial view of the Lake Lure Dam. These gates serve to manage the lake level year round. Along with a small number of residents and property owners in the potentially impacted area, the Town of Lake Lure received communications last month from the North Carolina Department of Transportation that it planned to build a new bridge across the Lake Lure Dam.

Not surprisingly, citizens who received the letter voiced concern, as did members of the Lake Lure Town Council.

Following a requested meeting with NCDOT officials in mid-August, we now know much more than we did from the initial letter. 

The good news is this:

According to NCDOT officials in the meeting, town officials have been told that a bridge facility over the dam or east of the dam seemed most likely and that a bridge design utilizing Neighborly Drive seemed less likely. 

Additionally, NCDOT intends to schedule a public meeting in Lake Lure about the bridge project next summer.

Following is the latest information learned during the meeting with NCDOT and the Town of Lake Lure:

  • Initial information provided to citizens and the Town by NCDOT on this project was based on assumptions that were incorrect and unfortunately, some of this information was passed on to the public by NCDOT.
  • It is entirely too early in the process for NCDOT to make an accurate assessment of the design and cost of the proposed bridge structure
  • The current bridge at the Lake Lure Dam has a sufficiency rating of 5.5 out of 100 and is in need of replacement.
  • While functionally obsolete, the bridge is not structurally deficient and is safe for use.
  • NCDOT desires a cooperative path with residents and the Town of Lake Lure
  • NCDOT will consider sensibly developed alternatives to replacing the bridge based on public input, cost and the human and natural environmental impact of the project
  • The NCDOT Bridge Replacement Fund will be a mixture of Federal and State dollars: 80 percent Federal and 20 percent State.

Background leading up to the request for a meeting with NCDOT

The initial communication about the proposed bridge first came to citizens and the town in the form of a letter, dated June 24, 2016, but only received by the Town of Lake Lure and others in the early part of August. The letter, sent to residents on and around Neighborly Drive, addressed information related to conceivably replacing the bridge that spans the existing Lake Lure Dam.  And while the dam and the lake are owned by the Town of Lake Lure, the bridge over it is owned by NCDOT.

Following receipt of the letter, the Town's Asset Management Advisory Board and the Town of Lake Lure asked for the meeting with representatives from NCDOT to learn more about the proposed project.  Those present with DOT officials were Commissioner John Moore, Vice-Chair of Zoning and Planning, Charlie Ellis, Town Manager Ron Nalley and Shannon Baldwin, Community Development Director).

Prior to the meeting the town submitted 21 questions to NCDOT officials. The questions were compiled by concerned citizens, the council, members of the town's appointed boards and town staff.  NCDOT officials responded to all 21 questions.

From the questions submitted, we learned the following additional information about this project and about our existing bridge over the Lake Lure Dam.

  • A bridge must score below 50 before it is even considered for replacement.
  • Average daily traffic counts over the current dam bridge are 300 per NCDOT.
  • Approximately $5 million dollars has been programmed for construction of the new bridge.  Construction is programmed for 2022 per TIP.
  • $250,000 has been programmed for right of way acquisition.  Right of way acquisition is scheduled for 2021.
  • NCDOT will not have a realistic cost estimate or design until all “sensibly developed alternatives” are studied in detail.
  • The NCDOT Bridge Replacement Fund is a mixture of Federal and State dollars: 80 percent Federal and 20 percent State.
  • NCDOT stated that it has never built a bridge on or over another entity’s substructure
  • If  NCDOT goes with the option to build a bridge on or over the Lake Lure Dam, an agreement will have to reached between the Town and NCDOT.
  • NCDOT recently learned the waste water treatment plant will be decommissioned once the Greenline Sewer Connect to Spindale becomes active.
  • When addressed by town officials, NCDOT stated that a new bridge structure would almost certainly incorporate pedestrian and bicycle traffic, such as separate lanes. 
  • During the meeting, those present discussed the possibility of an educational element (i.e. traffic pull out with display boards) to facilitate learning opportunities about hydroelectric power generation, possibly to include a nearby walkway and ‘pocket park’ to allow views of the dam structure. 
  • Some of the project elements studied to determine best option are public input, cost, environmental impacts, human impacts, impact on historical facilities, etc.

Town Council and staff will keep citizens informed as this project develops.

About the Lake Lure Dam:

Construction of the dam began in 1925. It was completed in September 1926 and the creation of the lake began.

The full impoundment of Lake Lure was completed in 1927.

The power plant began operations in 1928 with the sale of electricity under a 10-year contract to Blue Ridge Power Co., the predecessor of Duke Power Co.

The town continues even today to contract with Duke Power for the sale of electricity.