SELC Sues to Stop Mid Currituck Bridge

Proposed route of the Mid Currituck Bridge.
Proposed route of the Mid Currituck Bridge.

In a move that is probably a surprise to no one who is following the events, the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) is suing NCDOT to stop construction of the $500 Mid Currituck Bridge.

The SELC has been opposed to the bridge since it was first formally proposed in the late 1990s. The span will connect Aydlett on the Currituck mainland to Corolla, bypassing the troubled intersection of US 158 and NC 12 in Kitty Hawk. Highway planners see the bridge as the best option to alleviate the traffic jams that have plagued weekend traffic in the summer for years.

With the announcement in March of a Record of Decision approved by the Federal highway Administration, the the Mid Currituck Bridge moved closer than it ever has to reality. The Record of Decision is the final step before construction bids are let.

 According to the SELC they are representing a number of groups and organizations including the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, hunters, fishermen. A local group NoMCD, is also opposed to the bridge, although it is unclear if they are part of the suit.

The case was filed on April 23 in in the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The SELC maintains the bridge is an expensive and unnecessary project that will significantly damage to the environment. The suit alleges NCDOT failed to hold any public hearings on the Environmental Impact Statement since 2012.

The current Environmental Impact Statement is based on a 2012 EIS that was issued just before a planned ROD. NCDOT did solicit public input for the updated EIS, although there were no public hearings.

The bridge will be toll bridge. Although highway engineers believe it will alleviate traffic congestion it main purpose is to bring hurricane evacuation into compliance with state standards.

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Record of Decision Moves Mid Currituck Bridge Project Forward

NCOT map showing Mid Currituck Bridge location associated road projects.
NCOT map showing Mid Currituck Bridge location associated road projects.

Maybe, just maybe the Mid Currituck Bridge will be built.

On Friday the Federal Highway Administration approved the project’s Record of Decision. With the federal government’s approval in hand, the long-awaited bridge connecting the Currituck Banks with the mainland has just gotten a huge boost.

Record of Decision & What It Means

A Record of Decision outlines how the project is going to be built and is required before construction can be put out to bid.

That the Federal Government agrees with the assessment to NCDOT and the North Carolina Turnpike Commission that the bridge is necessary will go a long way to moving the process forward.

When completed, the bridge will subtract 40 miles from the ride to Corolla for vacationers and workers who use the Wright Memorial Bridge. More importantly, it should bring hurricane evacuation time from the Currituck Banks to less than 18 hours. Eighteen hours is the maximum time to evacuate an area that will meet state standards.

The total cost of the project is approximately $440 million. The state believes, however, that told will offset the cost of the bridge. Government grants and bonds, some of them to be paid through toll collections, will further reduce the state’s outlay. Estimates are that NCDOT will be responsible for $173 million.

The bridge will be located at Aydlett on the mainland side and will connect with Corolla very close to the TimBuckII Shopping Plaza on the Outer Banks side.

NCDOT has not indicated a specific timetable at this point in time, but if other published schedules for construction of the bridge hold true, the Mid Currituck Bridge should open to traffic sometime in 2022. Provided all goes smoothly.

There is a six month comment period for a ROD.

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Reports Indicate Mid Currituck Bridge Project Moving Forward

Proposed route of the Mid Currituck Bridge, spanning Currituck Sound.
Proposed route of the Mid Currituck Bridge, spanning Currituck Sound.

40 Years Since Project Was First Discussed

If recent reports are accurate, the Mid Currituck Bridge may be back on track. The long-planned but always delayed project is seen as the best alternative to reduce weekend traffic woes during the Outer Banks summer season.

The project was first envisioned in 1978, but NCDOT planning for the bridge did not begin until the 1990s. Plans call for a 6 mile two lane toll bridge spanning the Currituck Sound at Aydlett on the mainland, connecting with the Currituck Banks just south of Great Beach Pond about a mile south of Corolla Village.

The project’s website indicates a Record of Decision will be issued in late summer or fall of 2018. Since there is very little time left in the summer, fall seems most likely and thetas what is being reported.

The Record of Decision of decision outlines the scope of the project and is needed to award contracts. It typically takes 15-18 months to negotiate contracts, so reasonably construction would begin in 2020. The NCDOT timetable has always seen the Mid Currituck Bridge as a four year project, so a 2024 opening is the prediction.

That timetable aligns with the reporting that we’re seeing.

However, there are a number of cautionary notes that have to accompany this.

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has voiced concerns about the project and has funded a study that suggests there are less expensive alternatives to spending $489 million that would result in significant improvements in traffic delays.

Although the bridge is seen as a means to reduce traffic woes, its primary purpose is to allow faster evacuation times if an evacuation is needed. According to the SELC, their plan would also reduce evacuation times.

To date, the SELC has not stated that they will sue to stop the Mid Currituck Bridge. If a lawsuit is filed, though, it would not be filed until the Record of Decision is issued, and typically not until the end of the comment period for it.

If a lawsuit is filed, it’s difficult to know when the project will move forward.

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