DARE COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) – A proposed $289.5 million project to replace the 60-year-old Alligator River Bridge on U.S. 64 between Tyrrell and Dare counties in North Carolina is a step closer after it received a $110 million multimodal project discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“This bridge is a lifeline for the people of North Carolina both to and from the Barrier Islands,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in a statement. “It is one of the few options residents and visitors have for accessing our far eastern counties and this bridge replacement will serve our state for decades to come. This is a great example of how President (Joe) Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law helps move along large projects that otherwise would be difficult to fund through traditional means.”

The current Lindsay B. Warren bridge is a two-lane swing-span bridge completed in 1962, with more than 4,000 boats passing through the area yearly. It forces vehicles to stop while the span opens and closes. While it is maintained, due to technical issues brought about in part due to its age, it can force drivers to take a 99-mile detour.

“This is a big boost for eastern North Carolina,” said Win Bridgers, Division One Engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. “A new fixed-span bridge over the Alligator River would aid everything from economic development to hurricane evacuation.”

The proposed replacement would see a new, 3.2-mile two-lane fixed-span bridge just to the north of the old one, and would allow both marine and vehicle traffic to pass unimpeded. Construction, according to NCDOT, would begin no later than 2025. The new bridge will have a 65-foot vertical clearance to accommodate the navigational channel and have two, 12-foot lanes with eight-foot shoulders, along with railings to separate bicycle traffic from vehicle traffic.

The grant money will also be used to pay for broadband installation along U.S. 64 from I-95 in Rocky Mount to N.C. 12 on the Outer Banks.

Its grant application was named in honor of former Division 1 engineer Sterling Baker, who died in April.

“Sterling dedicated his life to NCDOT and the northeastern North Carolina community,” said Baker’s wife, Elizabeth Mumm Baker. “He would be proud the grant project for this bridge would highlight his work ingenuity and character he showed to get the job done for citizens. It is really special, and his family will be honored that he will forever be part of eastern North Carolina. Thank you for this tribute honoring his legacy.”

Sen. Thom Tillis said the grant will help both Dare and Tyrrell counties by providing a safe, reliable bridge for generations.

“I am proud to have advocated for this funding,” Tillis said in a statement, “and thank local officials in both counties for their tireless advocacy for this grant as well. It’s clear that the bipartisan infrastructure law is already bringing major investments to our great state.”