Feds OK Mid-Currituck Bridge
By Reggie Ponder
Friday, March 8, 2019
CURRITUCK — The Federal Highway Administration issued its “record of decision” for the Mid-Currituck Bridge on Friday, giving state officials the green light they’ve been waiting for to get the long-delayed project started.
“This is a major milestone in delivering this project, that the local communities requested,” said Chris Werner, acting executive director of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority in a press release. “The Mid-Currituck Bridge will provide much-needed transportation improvements for hurricane evacuation clearance times and connectivity to the Outer Banks.”
The project will include a new 4.7-mile, two-lane toll bridge across the Currituck Sound and a 1.5-mile long bridge across the Maple Swamp.
Reached Friday evening, state Rep. Bobby Hanig, R-Curituck, called the federal highway agency’s issuance of the record of decision “great news.” He said Currituck officials have been working toward this day for a long time.
“It's good to see it finally come to fruition,” Hanig said. “This is a big day for Currituck. It's going to change what the landscape of Currituck looks like in the not-too-distant future and there are going to be tremendous economic benefits for the whole region, not just Currituck.”
Currituck County Manager Dan Scanlon also expressed excitement at the news.
“This is an important project for everyone who lives on or visits the Outer Banks,” Scanlon said in a statement released by N.C. Department of Transportation. “It is encouraging to see the state reach this milestone after years of hard work from so many people.”
Paul Beaumont, a current Currituck commissioner, agreed the project will benefit the region.
"I am excited about that decision and believe it will transform our region," he said.
Hanig, a freshman legislator who previously served as chairman of the Currituck Board of Commissioners, said state transportation officials were already in the process of moving forward with the project while waiting for the record of decision. He believes more details on the anticipated schedule for the project should be coming soon from DOT..
State transportation officials noted that the need for an an east-west crossing of the Currituck Sound was first identified in 1975. However, the Turnpike Authority didn’t get involved in the project until 2006, when local leaders began talking of funding it with toll revenue.
According to DOT, the Mid-Currituck Bridge will provide an additional evacuation route from the Outer Banks ahead of the arrival of hurricanes and tropical storms. Right now, evacuation “clearance times” from the Outer Banks don’t meet the state standard of 18 hours, DOT said. The new bridge will solve that problem.
“The 40-mile shortcut is expected to provide a travel time savings of about two hours one-way during peak travel periods,” the agency said.
While Currituck officials are excited about the record of decision, they also know it likely will also spur a new lawsuit to block the bridge.
Haning said the Southern Environmental Law Center, which opposes the bridge, is likely to soon announce a lawsuit to stop the bridge’s construction. He expressed optimism, however, that any pending lawsuit against the bridge wouldn’t take as long to resolve as SELC’s previous lawsuit to stop it.
“With any luck it will be a settlement issue and not a long, drawn-out issue,” Hanig said.