Mid-Currituck span bids set for October


By Miles Layton
The Chowan Herald

Saturday, June 16, 2018

EDENTON – State DOT officials confirmed Thursday that bids for the Mid-Currituck County bridge project are scheduled to be let in October — if not delayed by environmental or traffic studies.

Also, projects associated with the proposed I-87 highway are being vetted to determine if they will be included in the upcoming 10-year transportation improvement plan.

N.C. Department of Transportation officials answered questions about ongoing and proposed road projects during an informal public hearing Thursday at the Division 1 office in Edenton.

The meeting was held to get public input on which transportation projects in 14-county Division 1 area should be a top priority in the State Transportation and Improvement Program – a 10-year plan that identifies funding for projects and schedules them for construction.

In April, NCDOT released data scores for more than 2,100 transportation improvement projects across the state, in the first round of an evaluation process to determine which projects will be scheduled for construction. Also in April, NCDOT identified 77 high-score Statewide Mobility projects that will be programmed for funding over the next decade.

During Thursday’s public hearing, Gretchen Byrum, project development engineer for Division 1, answered questions about affected projects that may or may not be considered as part of the planning process.  

She responded to questions about the Mid-Currituck Bridge project that would create a second crossing of the sound – north of the Wright Memorial Bridge – so as to provide easier access between the Outer Banks and Virginia, as well as other communities in northeastern North Carolina. The 7-mile toll project includes a two-lane bridge that spans the Currituck Sound and connects the Currituck County mainland to the Outer Banks.

Byrum said while bids for the $490 million project are scheduled to be let in the fall, she cautioned that the timetable could change pending the results of environmental and traffic studies.

She gave an update on another regional project of interest, the 1-87 highway, which would include development of a major traffic corridor for northeastern North Carolina. Once completed, I-87 is planned to start in Raleigh, continue northeast through Rocky Mount, Williamston, Elizabeth City, ending in Norfolk, Va.

“I-87 projects (along the route) are currently going through the prioritization process to determine whether they will be included in the transportation plan,” Byrum said.

She also answered questions about the proposed Harbor Town Project, which seeks to create a high-speed ferry system linking Elizabeth City to other towns on the Albemarle Sound, including Hertford, Edenton, Plymouth, Columbia and Kitty Hawk. The project would require purchasing five 49-passenger, catamaran-style ferries. The project is estimated to cost $13.8 million to launch the ferry system and $1.95 million a year to operate.

Byrum said the state ferry division is not initiating this proposal and there are no plans to incorporate it into their system, but instead the emphasis should be on private investment as well as support from local governments as advocated by the plan’s author, Nick Didow, a University of North Carolina business professor.

Also, DOT is replacing three bridges on N.C.32 north of Edenton under contract C204037. The first bridge is at Ballard’s Grove Baptist Church. The second bridge is just north of Welch Road. The third bridge is at the Gates County line. Byrum said the projects may be experiencing delays as utility companies relocate affected transmission lines.

A draft list of the top-scoring Regional Impact projects is scheduled for release in August. A similar process for local input will take place in the fall for local Division Needs projects.

Once all project scores are finalized, the top-scoring projects will be programmed for construction based on available funding. Other factors may determine whether a project ultimately moves to construction, including the completion of environmental and engineering plans, corridor spending limits prescribed by law, and other federal and state funding restrictions.

This information will be used to create the next STIP for the years 2020-2029. NCDOT will release a draft STIP for public comment in January 2019. The final 2020-2029 STIP is expected to be adopted by the N.C. Board of Transportation in June 2019.