No ‘timeline’ yet for mid-Currituck Bridge

By on January 11, 2020

N.C. officials provide update at Duck Woods meeting

About 160 people showed up at the Duck Woods County Club on Jan. 9 to hear the latest about the long-awaited Mid-Currituck Bridge project from state officials. The presentation from Rodger Rochelle, Chief Engineer, Innovation Delivery at the N.C Turnpike Authority and Project Manager Jennifer Harris, was sponsored by the Southern Shores Civic Association & Boat Club.

For many Outer Banks residents, particularly those in Southern Shores and Duck, the project — which would connect mainland Aydlett to Corolla on the Outer Banks — is seen as a potential game changer that could significantly alleviate the severe summer congestion that backs up traffic and sends motorists cutting through residential neighborhoods.

But the project is also the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). And Rochelle began the Jan. 9 meeting with a caveat, saying he was “unable to give you a definitive timeline [for bridge construction] today.”

The project will include a 4.7-mile long bridge over the Currituck Sound and a 1.5-mile long span across Maple Swamp as part of the mainland approach road. The proposal also includes improvements to N.C. 12 and minor enhancements to the Wright Memorial Bridge, aiding in hurricane evacuation. The two-lane bridge will have one-foot travel lanes, six-foot shoulders, and will include a bicycle-safe route.

Rochelle priced the bridge project at $531 million, based on a calculation of hundreds of different cost elements and risk assessments. That number reflects a 70% certainty that the overall cost of the project will come in under that figure.

The span over the Currituck Sound will include a toll plaza (including E-ZPass) east of the interchange on the mainland. Rochelle said the passenger car toll may cost nearly $30. Several attendees voiced concerns that such a high charge may act as a deterrent to visitors, especially given that the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel toll, just north of Norfolk, VA, clocks in at $14 off-peak and $18 during peak times.

Rochelle said it had been suggested — not by the N.C. Turnpike Authority, he added — that visitors without out-of-state license plates should pay a higher toll, which he called “a type of discrimination.”

In a statement related to its lawsuit filed last spring, the SELC said the bridge project “would cause significant damage to the Currituck Sound, and its pricey tolls, necessary to cover its high costs — by some estimates up to $50 during peak summer months— render the project only usable by wealthy tourists during their visits a few months each year during the summer season.”

Local residents who have seen summer tourism in the Outer Banks explode over the past few decades voiced fears that two lanes would not be sufficient to alleviate future traffic congestion.

But Rochelle the audience that “in twenty-five years, we don’t anticipate having a traffic problem on the bridge itself.” Harris added that NCDOT’s traffic forecast for 2040 projects there will be 18,000 cars per day using the bridge, which NCDOT has calculated a two-lane bridge can handle.

Harris also highlighted improved hurricane evacuation times as one of the new bridge’s greatest assets. The NCDOT calculated the total time needed to clear an entire area of all residents during a hurricane: 37.2 hours without the Mid-Currituck Bridge, and 32.3 hours with the bridge.

Rochelle and Harris waited until near the end of their talk to address the proverbial elephant in the room — the lawsuit.

An hour into the presentation, Rochelle acknowledged that, “Yes, there is a complaint lodged in the courts against our NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] document. However, there are things we still can do to advance the project, and we are doing everything we can despite the legal challenges.”

Next steps going forward include working on applications for construction permits, working on utility coordination, and completing a plan of finance.

 



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Comments

  • surf123

    This bridge is a complete waste of taxpayer funds and it does not matter that it will be tolled. No one in their right mind builds a bridge that is only needed 15 weekends a year. Trying to disguise it’s necessity being to aid in hurricane evacuations is disingenuous. The bridge is being built for convenience only which will result in even more visitors to an already overcrowded area. I think it is safe to assume that those who want the bridge do not realize the less than desirable side effects that will come with it (increased traffic, increased crime including drugs, more permanent residents demanding service improvement, higher taxes, more noise, etc). For those who live within sight of the new bridge’s landing point their property values have been forever compromised.

    Saturday, Jan 11 @ 2:54 pm
  • Salvo Jimmy

    One-foot travel lanes😳😳😳😳😳

    Saturday, Jan 11 @ 4:30 pm
  • Lee Roach

    Why wasn’t the meeting regarding the Mid Currituck Bridge announced on the OBX Voice? Or did I miss it. We would have been very interested in attending.

    Saturday, Jan 11 @ 5:09 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Lee this is a regular monthly meeting hosted by a club. I do not know what their policy is regarding opening the meetings to the general public, but we were not asked to publicize it in advance. You can check with the Southern Shores Civic Association and Boat Club on their policy regarding meetings.

    Saturday, Jan 11 @ 7:55 pm
  • WindyBill

    A music group called En Vogue did a song about the bridge a number of years back. It can be found on You Tube formally named “My Lovin”, informally named ‘(you’re never gonna get it)’,
    The best & most appropriate part starts 3:25 into it.

    Saturday, Jan 11 @ 6:56 pm
  • sortudo

    Bridge is necessary for three months.

    Saturday, Jan 11 @ 9:10 pm
  • Koo Flocks

    Koo Flocks here. Windy Bill. Great comment. By the way, what’s up with the toll proposal? What happened to fully funded projects?

    Sunday, Jan 12 @ 5:54 am
  • FLANNERY VALERIE

    Suggesting that drivers with out of state license plates pay a higher rate is incredibly unfair. We are non-rental property owners and frequently travel back and forth from Massachusetts to the OBX. It’s bad enough paying ridiculous toll prices through NY and the CBBT, we would NEVER use the mid Currituck bridge at those suggested prices.

    Sunday, Jan 12 @ 11:38 am
  • Darkseas

    sortudo,

    Hurricane season lasts longer than three months, as I’m sure you’re aware.

    I guess you don’t have a problem with the 55 miles ONE WAY from Corolla to the Currituck County Government Center, but perhaps you can appreciate that many Currituck citizens do.

    Also, I suspect there are many residents of mainland Currituck County who would like to work in Corolla or the northern part of Dare County who would find it a lot easier to do with the bridge. Reduced toll packages are being considered for regular users.

    Sunday, Jan 12 @ 11:39 pm
  • ANDY MOYNAHAN

    That would be the three months when we make 90% of our income.

    Monday, Jan 13 @ 12:21 am
  • WindyBill

    Darkseas is on point. Northeast NC residents with provable Corolla employment should have a seriously reduced toll for employment purposes. A great number of job opportunities await.

    Monday, Jan 13 @ 1:26 pm
  • Part Time OBX'er

    Reality is that vacationers will pay likely up to a $30-$35 toll for a one-time-a-year expense to cut approximately 2-2.5 hours out of their trip coming from the North and West. If they don’t want to pay, then they go all the way around for the extra time and fuel.

    The real issue would be for year round residents on both sides but need to travel daily back and forth for work or school. There should be special pre-purchased passes that can be bought at a significantly reduced rate annually or semi-annually for these residences.

    Also, shouldn’t there be a significant investment from the Currituck County Occupancy Tax tills since this is a MAJOR improvement for tourism (unlike the waste of money spent on those parks on the mainland side)! JMO

    Tuesday, Jan 14 @ 3:20 pm
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