Despite favorable ruling, Mid-Currituck Bridge won’t be built soon

By on December 19, 2021

Last week’s ruling against a lawsuit attempting to block the development of the long-planned Mid-Corolla bridge heartened supporters of the project. But even with favorable rulings, construction on the bridge is still years away.

Judge Louise Wood Flanagan of the US District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina ruled on Dec. 13, against the Southern Environmental Law Center’s (SELC) case against the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for its efforts to build a 5-mile toll bridge to Currituck County’s Outer Banks.

The SELC suit was filed on behalf of the N.C. Wildlife Federation and a group called No Mid-Currituck Bridge, which is comprised of local residents on the mainland and Outer Banks who are opposed to the bridge. The suit focused on compliance with the federal Environmental Policy Act and its mandates for environmental integrity. SELC attorney Kym Hunter says the Dec. 13 ruling will be appealed.

The need for the bridge has been linked to hurricane evacuation and the possibility that some  emergency services personnel, such as deputies and EMS workers, could use the bridge. The Outer Banks portion of Currituck County can only be accessed by driving through the Dare County towns of Duck and Southern Shores. And both towns have pushed for the bridge due to highly contested traffic conditions in their neighborhoods during the summer months.

The project is estimated, according to various documents, to cost between $450 million and $625 million with about 20 percent of the cost to be state funding and the remainder in private money repaid through collecting tolls. Current estimates by NCDOT put construction costs at $464 million and purchasing rights-of-way at an estimated $14 million. Utilities will cost around $11 million.

The court ruling is just the latest chapter in the 30-year push to get the bridge built to serve visitors to Corolla and the off-road area north of it. But in mid-November letter to Angela Welsh, the Planning Director, Albemarle Rural Planning Organization, NCDOT District Engineer Sterling Baker informed her that the project is being delayed for two years.

“Due to the uncertainties concerning the pending legal challenge by the Southern Environmental Law Center and their clients, the decision was made to delay the Right of Way/Design-Build Let from June 2022, to June 2024.

“The Department feels this will provide a more realistic schedule for the project as well as allow the Division to proceed with more Division Projects,” wrote Baker.

Back In April 2019, it was announced that actual construction of the bridge wouldn’t occur until at least 2023. The latest announcement puts off the bridge build start to at least 2025 before the construction can move forward.

The mainland side of the proposed toll bridge will be near Maple Swamp just off U.S. Highway 158 and reach the Outer Banks near Monteray Shores in Corolla. There are two bridges in the project: The first is 1.5-mile bridge over swamp and then the remainder of the five-mile bridge from Aydlett to Corolla.

The two-lane bridge will have 6-foot shoulders on both sides and a speed limit of 60 mph. Three toll booths will be placed on each side.

Currituck County Economic Development Director Larry Lombardi said that the tolls would primarily be paid by visitors.  The tolls – although not set – have been estimated to be $25 to $50 each way.

In its lawsuit, SELC pointed out the negative responses the bridge has received from both federal and state agencies due to environmental concerns. It also predicts that roads will be inundated with coastal flooding due to climate change long before the bridge is paid for. And the suit points to additional development in the off-road area that will impact the environment and be affected by rising ocean waters.

A list of alternatives to the bridge has been offered by NCDOT— including adding a third lane to NC 12 in spots, roundabouts and pedestrian crossovers. But thus far, all of them have been turned down by state and local officials.



Comments

  • surf123

    Another boondoggle that will only bring more people in, especially day trippers who contribute nothing to Currituck County other than another car on the road. No sane person builds a road that is possibly needed for 10-12 weekends per year. An equivalent would be building a loop driveway to help visitors enter and exit the driveway better, handle extra guests over the holidays and parties, and in the event of a fire to allow the fire department better access.

    The idea that it is needed for hurricane evacuations is the most preposterous argument of all the reasons for building. Hurricanes do not sneak up on us like a tornado. Everyone knows well in advance when they are coming. What this bridge will do is delay everyones exit to that last minute and then create a delay where the bridge hits the mainland.

    One can only hope this will continue to be litigated until the interested parties give up.

    Sunday, Dec 19 @ 4:11 pm
  • Stuck in traffic

    Keep on appealing and get all the delays you can.
    I’d rather be stuck in traffic than have out of state workers take my job and way of life!
    We don’t have a bridge now and we can’t handle the traffic. What is going to happen with a two line bridge? What is that going to help. That’s already out of date. Why in the heck do you need to do 60. ? Those kinda wrecks with stop a two line bridge up.
    Try some other more cost effective and not so job killing method to traffic.
    Keep the law suits going!!

    Sunday, Dec 19 @ 5:58 pm
  • Charles Brumbelow

    Tolls for the new bridge if/when of $25 to $50 each way on a five mile bridge, mostly to be paid by tourists? What have y’all been smokin’?

    Sunday, Dec 19 @ 6:27 pm
  • WindyBill

    SELC held up the new Oregon Inle bridge for decades and the governments had to agree to pay their legal fees to settle so they would go away. The longer they drag it out, the more they get. They are very good at it. Widen eastbound 158 from Wright Bridge to NC 12 and up at LeST to Duck, thru the Duck quaint business district would be best.

    Sunday, Dec 19 @ 8:18 pm
  • Obxer

    If there is a toll on this bridge, it sets a bad example( greed) with all the free ferries only a few a pay and all the other bridges that dont have tolls all the gas tax and the government handouts the state gets. It you toll this you either toll the rest or drop the toll don’t look GREEDY

    Sunday, Dec 19 @ 10:21 pm
  • Greg

    This bridge should have been built 20 years ago. Currituck County denied no development permits in its quest for additional tax revenue by developing all the private land on The Currituck Outer Banks. Now 5 bedroom homesare being replaced by 10+ bedroom vacation rental homes. The amount of seasonal population is being allowed to increase. All of this at the end of a 20 mile long dead end 2 lane road. Nowhere else on The East coast has this situation. If a coastal County or Town desires to have a seasonal visitor economy then adequate access is a necessity. The environmental issues are fuel use and air pollution. There will be no road widening in Dare County. The citizenry of Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, and Duck are and have been paying the price with inconvenience, air pollution and an unsafe level of traffic through their communities. An inexplicably absurd situation overall.

    Monday, Dec 20 @ 7:51 am
  • Jimmy

    $25 to $50 EACH WAY?? What the what??!!

    Monday, Dec 20 @ 8:45 am
  • lippy

    Build that damn bridge. The argument that it only alleviates traffic on 10-12 weekends isn’t a current assessment of the existing traffic conditions for those that live in Duck and Southern Shores. There are many more year round residents in both towns. Any inclement weather clogs our 2 lane road with cars during the week with those seeking to shop or dine out. This creates safety concerns for the residents of and visitors to Duck who have to rely on ambulance services from Southern Shores….Duck does not have an ambulance stationed in town. An ambulance has a difficult time responding to any location in Duck with the 2 lane road clogged with traffic from Corolla/Carova.

    Monday, Dec 20 @ 9:14 am
  • Disgruntled

    The lawsuit pointed out negative responses due to environment concerns. What are the concerns?. So far the only concern I’ve seen mentioned is it would be in the way of old established “Duck blinds.” I hope it takes more than that in court.

    Roads being inundated with flooding for any reason seems a better argument for the bridge than against it.

    I totally get that folks don’t want to see OXB morph into a popular vacation destination, but it’s to late, not to mention we seem to be growing as fast we can without the bridge, the need for the bridge is growing with it. I don’t see the alternatives to the bridge as solutions.

    The only thing holding up this bridge hinges on this lawsuit. If the bridge is such a great environmental concern to the SELC I think they should be making their case to the public. If SELC really wants to stop the bridge perhaps they should also be fighting for a building moratorium everywhere north of Duck or else it’s only a matter of time.

    @WindyBill,,, I like your explanation!

    Monday, Dec 20 @ 10:13 am
  • james

    Why don’t Southern Shores charge a $50 per car toll (each way) to all nonresident / non property owners in Dare County to drive through their streets which are paid for and maintained by the residents of Southern Shores? Why don’t Southern Shores build rest stops along the streets so people can relive themselves in places other than in their front yards? Why must residents of Southern Shores live next to a smog chocked freeway (South Dogwood Trial) during the warm summer months so Currituck County can squeeze another dollar out of a vacation home? Why don’t Southern Shores elect representatives that will help mitigate the destruction of their communities instead of ones that increase taxes and do absolutely nothing for the communities in which they live and serve by clinging to a bridge that will not be built in the next 20 years? Perhaps a massive class action law suit by the residents against the town because of the inability / delayed response of emergency vehicles to reach residents in distress, endangerment of the citizens by dense smog bellowing into their homes, and for the complete degradation of the community by NON Dare County resident / property owners cutting through the neighborhood streets to reach Currituck County Beaches will do the trick. Any lawyers out there needing a solid case?

    Monday, Dec 20 @ 11:06 am
  • WindyBill

    The main reason for high 3 lane building costs is that SS deliberately put the fancy pedestrian sidewalks close to NC12 for the purpose of raising the cost, thereby discouraging, widening NC12.

    Monday, Dec 20 @ 12:38 pm
  • Stan Clough

    this bridge will never be built. After 40 years, end of story.

    Monday, Dec 20 @ 5:42 pm
  • Brian M

    There always seems to be this locals vs. vacationers animosity, so it’s laughable that locals are going to complain about the high toll. I visit northern OBX often and I think the high toll is perfect. Any vacationer stuck in traffic for hours to go a few miles will gladly pay $50 or more. Especially ones that spent thousands on their beach rental. And the locals should be happy that little is coming from their tax money. Build the bridge and take my money!

    Tuesday, Dec 21 @ 12:18 pm
  • Seal

    The Outter Banks arent just dying theyre Dead !!!
    Just pave the whole D#$n thing !!! The shrimp trawls have reduce Flounder season to just two weeks a year not to mention the other finn fish creel limits are the lowest on the East and Gulf Coast !!! The Drug trafficing and murders are in the news every day !!!
    Millions spent every year on pumping sand on the beaches that just washes away !!!
    Houses going up everywhere……face it folks ITS GONE !!!

    Wednesday, Dec 22 @ 10:55 am
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    A little grim there, Seal.

    Wednesday, Dec 22 @ 5:55 pm
  • Sean Mulligan

    If you want to widen the road in Southern Shores move there and back candidates who agree.Good Luck

    Wednesday, Dec 22 @ 11:39 am
  • Beachiekeen

    So if the tourists with $25-50 toll will pay for bridge, does that mean Corolla and Carola residents will get a pass to use free?

    Wright Memorial is “free” could be considered discriminatory to charge a unique segment of the county population an exorbitant fee to access mainland services especially health care providers.

    Will mainland workers traveling to Corolla get a pass also?

    Thursday, Dec 23 @ 12:06 pm