Currituck mulls bridge's impact on growth

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Currituck Planning Board member Steven Craddock

Barbara Marzetti.JPG

By William F. West
Staff Writer

Saturday, November 18, 2017

CURRITUCK — With the N.C. Department of Transportation set to announce the future of the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge next spring, Currituck officials are already discussing the span’s potential impact on development.

Steven Craddock, a member of the Currituck Planning Board, brought up the bridge project during a recent work session held to discuss the county’s land-use plan. A steering committee, along with county planning officials, are developing an updated land-use plan for county growth through 2040. 

Calling the bridge linking Currituck’s mainland and Outer Banks “the other 1,000-pound elephant in the room” — the “other” being what to do about Lower Currituck — Craddock said he sees a lot of commercial development taking place in the areas near the bridge’s two approaches.

On the mainland, Craddock said he could see more convenience stores selling gas, restaurants and motels-hotels. He also believes the Aydlett, Barco, Coinjock and Poplar Branch areas will see more development after the bridge is built.

"From Barco, even maybe through all the way to Grandy, you're going to find increased development because of the bridge and the accessibility," Craddock said.

According to new maps developed for Currituck’s proposed new land-use plan, the county is looking to capitalize on growth expected near the mainland approach for the bridge. Growth is also envisioned near the H2OBX Waterpark off Caratoke Highway near Harbinger.

Craddock noted the proposed mid-county bridge is controversial, and that not everyone in Currituck supports it. However, the bridge seems like the county’s best option for alleviating the traffic backups on U.S. Highway, particularly in Lower Currituck, caused by beach-bound traffic during the summer months, he said.

"If we totally turn our heads against the traffic issues that we have, incrementally, they are going to increase — and we're going to have more problems because of it," he said. "And if we don't alleviate those problems, we're going to be in for a hard-pressed mess to fix."

The N.C. Department of Transportation, which expects to release its record of decision on the bridge in April, has estimated the project will cost $489 million. The record of decision is generally considered the final step in the process of preparing a document showing a road project’s potential impact on its environment.

Barbara Marzetti, a member of the steering committee, expressed concerns about the bridge’s impact on the county’s Outer Banks. 

Marzetti, whose family operates the La Dolce Vita Italian Restaurant in Corolla, said business owners on the Outer Banks have a lot of high costs. Because of the distance suppliers have to drive to Corolla, deliveries are a high cost, she said. So are repairs.

"It's very difficult to run a business there – and we need help," she said.

Commissioner Mike Payment asked Marzetti if having the mid-county bridge would help speed up deliveries to businesses like hers.

Marzetti said suppliers, who are delivering to the beach anyway, would be in a better position to answer that question.

Marzetti made clear she and others who live on the Outer Banks aren’t opposed to the Mid-Currituck Bridge. The problem she sees is the crowding effect on N.C. Highway 12 once more day-trippers — because they’re able to get to Corolla more easily from the mainland — start showing up. 

She said state transportation plans she’s seen for N.C. 12 don’t indicate a lot of improvements, other than a couple of roundabouts and a left-turn lane.

“Where are they going to go?" she asked, referring to the increased number of visitors.