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DOT: Work could start on Mid-Currituck Bridge in 2020

Mid-Currituck Bridge.jpg

Shown is a map of the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge. A report by the Currituck County manager suggests the N.C. Department of Transportation anticipates a record of decision on the bridge project could be completed in October.

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By William F. West
Staff Writer

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

CURRITUCK — After being talked about for decades, the long-delayed Mid-Currituck Bridge is moving closer to a projected starting date for construction.

Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon advised Currituck commissioners recently that the N.C. Department of Transportation plans to have a record of decision on the bridge project in October. Under DOT’s current timetable, Scanlon said, construction of the bridge would start in July 2020 and be complete sometime in 2024. 

A bridge spanning Currituck Sound and linking the Currituck mainland with Corolla on the county’s Outer Banks has been discussed and planned for years. State and local officials have long sought the bridge, last estimated to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, as a way to help ease traffic congestion on Caratoke Highway in Lower Currituck in the summertime.

Scanlon said he was pleased with the latest information from NCDOT, because it means Currituck officials are getting close to actually seeing the project move forward.

“There's documentation over here that says this project was on the books in the 1970s,” Scanlon said. “So, to say that the county has been working forward in this project for a while is an understatement.”

Rodger Rochelle, chief engineer for the N.C. Turnpike Authority, agreed Monday that the Mid-Currituck project is moving forward.

“We do still have some hurdles that we're working through, certainly, but certainly there's been a lot of progress here in the last few months to a year,” Rochelle said.

The N.C. Turnpike Authority, which is part of NCDOT, will be tasked with operating and maintaining the Mid-Currituck Bridge once it’s built.

According to NCDOT documents, the Mid-Currituck Bridge was first scheduled for construction in 1989. The project has been postponed a number of times.

There have been delays in the past year as well. Gretchen Byrum, an NCDOT division project development engineer, said last August the agency expected the record of decision on the project to be ready in April 2018. NCDOT Division 1 Engineer Jerry Jennings then told Currituck commissioners in April the document should be available this summer.

Scanlon said NCDOT is currently waiting on a re-evaluation of a final environment impact statement on the bridge project. The EIS is required to show a transportation project's potential effects on its environment have been analyzed.

An EIS for the bridge project was first completed in 2012. However, because more than three years have passed since then, NCDOT was required to re-evaluate the EIS. The re-evaluation is designed to find out if there have been any changes, including to the environment, in the project area.

According to Scanlon's report, NCDOT officials have said if a supplement to the EIS isn't needed, the record of decision can be issued later this summer. Once that happens, the Federal Highway Administration has to approve the document, Scanlon said. If that happens, NCDOT can then move forward with all the things needed to get the project actually started: complete the project’s final engineering design, secure the project’s financing, acquire rights of way, secure permits and award the construction contract.

Currently, NCDOT anticipates awarding the construction contract about six months after federal highway officials sign off on the record of decision and funding for the project is secured, Scanlon's report states.

“Generally, it takes about six months to get a contract in place to do the design and construction,” Rochelle said.

Once the contract is awarded, NCDOT anticipates it'll take about 4½ years for the Mid-Currituck Bridge to open to traffic.

The seven-mile bridge has long been planned as a toll road. However, no dollar amount for the toll has been determined as yet.

Rochelle said determining the bridge’s toll is part of an ongoing traffic and revenue study that’s taking place simultaneously with environmental work on the project.

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