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Study: Less Demand for Mid-Currituck Span

Reprinted from the Outer Banks Voice

The Southern Environmental Law Center says a new study shows decreased demand for the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge between the mainland and Corolla.

The proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge would connect Corolla to the mainland. Rendering: North Carolina Department of Transportation

The proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge would connect Corolla to the mainland. Rendering: North Carolina Department of Transportation

The group announced Monday it had obtained new data from the North Carolina Department of Transportation that showed forecast traffic projections are down by half of those in a previous study. But an NCDOT official disputes the claim and says the data isn’t new.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced last November that construction would start on the 7-mile-long bridge sometime in 2017, despite the project scoring low under the state’s new transportation funding priority process.

The state Board of Transportation approved in January accelerating the construction timeline from Fiscal Year 2019 to 2017 at a cost of at least $410 million. The state would kick in about $173 million for initial planning, design work and right-of-way acquisition, and the rest would come from the sale of bonds that would be paid back using tolls.

But the legal group, which is representing a local organization opposed to the bridge known as NoMCB, said the start date will be pushed back, the price will be going up and that’s enough reason not to build the bridge over the Currituck Sound.

“If NCDOT really takes a thorough look at this project based on current data, we’re convinced that they’ll conclude it’s a long-outdated idea that would waste the area’s transportation dollars while causing significant environmental harm,” said law center attorney Kym Hunter.

New estimates place the expected cost of the bridge at up to $678 million, meaning that over $500 million may need to be covered by drivers paying tolls, according to the SELC press release.

The law center noted that the NCDOT’s proposed $26 one-way toll would have to be as high as $50 per trip to come close to paying for the project.

Highway department officials counter that the group obtained a draft of an update to an environmental study that was issued over three years ago and will be finished by spring of 2017, adding that the press release “is misleading and filled with inaccuracies.”

“The project has not been delayed and is moving forward following a process required by federal law,” according to an emailed statement from NCDOT.

A NCDOT spokesperson confirmed there has been no change to the overall timeline of the project, but adjustments to the schedule for any highway or bridge project is not uncommon.

“NCDOT’s new numbers confirm what we’ve been saying for years — the bridge is a colossal waste of taxpayer money,” said Jen Symonds, leader of NoMCB.

“Not only will the Mid-Currituck Bridge destroy the character of Currituck County, it will place an immense financial burden on coastal taxpayers,”  Symonds said.

This story is provided courtesy of the Outer Banks Voice, a digital newspaper covering the Outer Banks. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Voice to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest about our coast. You can read other stories about the Outer Banks here.

About the Author

Sam Walker

Sam Walker is the news director of Max Radio of the Carolinas and a staff writer for the "Outer Banks Voice."