Plans Move Ahead For 'critical' 23rd Street Widening Project

By Emma Dill, posted May 2, 2024
Plans to widen 23rd Street will move forward following a vote of support from local leaders.

Wilmington International Airport officials requested economic development funding from state transportation officials in March and have committed $1 million toward the road widening. Airport leaders say the project will improve traffic flow into the airport, align with other capital improvements and accommodate future economic growth.

The Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board voted unanimously on Wednesday to move ahead with the $2.8 million road widening, which will add one new northbound lane between Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Airport Boulevard.

The $2.8 million price tag includes the project's construction, utilities and right-of-way acquisition, according to Michelle Howes, a corridor development engineer with NCDOT's Division. With engineering costs, the project's total estimate is approximately $3.3 million.

Discussions about widening 23rd Street arose in recent years as ILM staff worked on the airport’s vision plan, ILM spokesperson Erin McNally wrote in an email to the Business Journal this week. The planning process prompted staff to look at investments in roadways on airport property and 23rd Street, the primary point of entry to Airport Boulevard.

The project is also identified in the Cape Fear Moving Forward 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, a long-range plan the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) adopted in 2020.

NCDOT completed a feasibility study on the proposed road widening, and the project has been submitted by the WMPO for consideration as part of Prioritization 7.0, a process that helps determine when projects receive funding from NCDOT. 

The project would be a scaled-down version of an initial proposal that also included bike lanes and sidewalks. Funding the road widening won’t result in delays for other projects delays, WMPO Executive Director Mike Kozlosky told the board on Wednesday.

Kozlosky added that NCDOT’s Division 3 Engineer Chad Kimes had worked to cobble together funding for the project.

“Chad has been able to pull together a number of different funding sources in order to fund the $2.8 million option,” he said.

NCDOT will contribute a combination of economic development funding and public access for industrial access funds, according to Howes. Kimes called the 23rd Street widening a “critical project” and thanked airport officials for their $1 million commitment.

“A series of different funds put this together,” Kimes said Wednesday, “that’s how critical we believe this project is.”

An NCDOT Division of Aviation study from 2022 found that ILM contributes $2.5 billion in economic impact and supports 13,550 jobs in the region, including 1,252 jobs that can be directly attributed to the airport.

Since 2022, the airport has signed nearly 164 acres of “new lease area” with 11 tenants in various stages of development, officials said. That includes a bank, corporate aircraft hangars, a hotel and restaurant, an entertainment complex and three cold storage facilities, among other leases. These committed projects are expected to create 691 new jobs.
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