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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Groundbreaking for Much Delayed Bonner Replacement

Bob Woodard, Chair Dare County Commissioners; Nicholas Tennyson, Secretary NCDOT; Governor Pat McCrory; Queen Elizabeth; Shelley Blake, NCDOT lead counsel; Representative Walter Jones; Malcolm Fearing.

Three years from now and a few hundred million dollars later, a replacement span for the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet will finally be in place. Today marked the official beginning of the process as politicians came from Raleigh and Washington, DC to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new bridge.

The weather was about as good as it gets on the Outer Banks in early March with temperatures in the mid 60s and a gentle south breeze. The speakers included Governor Pat McCrory and Congressman Walter B. Jones, and a theme that seemed to run throughout the remarks was the extraordinary sense of teamwork that ran throughout a process that included more than ten years of courtroom battles.

“I noticed the teamwork you had between your local city, county and state officials and the federal government and the private sector would step up to the plate,” Governor McCrory said.

It was a phenomena that Representative Jones also remarked upon.

“I want to thank the local leadership that came to Washington on a regular basis . . . and sat down with us and talked about the needs of this coastal county. That is what helps Washington understand, this is a different county,” he said.

The bridge, completed in 1963 was supposed to have a 30 year lifespan, but legal battles between the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and NCDOT over over where to place the bridge, environmental impact and how documents were created created years of litigation.

It wasn’t until June of this year the SELC and NCDOT reached an agreement that would allow the bridge to be built without further lawsuits.

The bridge is one of three project called for in the settlement. The other two include a jug handle at the Rodanthe S curves to avoid an area of consistent ocean overwash, and a new route bypassing the New Inlet area of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The replacement span will have a 100 year planned life and will include stainless steel girders pilings driven 100’ into the ground. There will also be improved navigational aids for commercial and residential watercraft.