Mid-Currituck Bridge, NC

A proposed toll bridge across the Currituck Sound in North Carolina would bring many ill effects, harming natural areas and life.

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Locals ask N.C. officials to look at alternatives to $600M Mid-Currituck Bridge More »

As North Carolina looks to address summer beach traffic headed to and from the Outer Banks, residents and property owners along the route are asking the state to consider alternatives that would have less impact on taxpayers and on the area’s special landscape.

In a letter sent this week to newly-appointed North Carolina Secretary of Transportation, Jim Trogdon, locals represented by the No Mid-Currituck Bridge group asked him to look at more affordable and less damaging solutions than the proposed $600 million Mid-Currituck Bridge.

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“We believe the alternative would alleviate traffic congestion on NC 12 without the high fiscal and environmental cost of the bridge,” states the letter, signed by two NoMCB steering members. “Our group represents part of the strong opposition to the Mid-Currituck Bridge on both the Currituck mainland and the Outer Banks. We hope that your department takes the time to take a thoughtful look at whether this costly and controversial project is truly the best solution.”

The alternative sent to the North Carolina Department of Transportation offers a suite of possible solutions that include minimal road widening along key congested stretches of NC 12, a redesigned interchange between NC 12 and 158, and the conversion of signalized intersections to roundabouts.

The proposal also includes programs designed to reduce transportation demand, such as incentives for staggered check-out days at vacation rental homes, and an “electronic key” program that would eliminate unnecessary trips to centralized vacation rental offices.

A focus of the design was easing the area’s peak congestion days, which are usually summer weekends. These options achieve that at drastically less cost to taxpayers and the environment than the proposed bridge and could be implemented much sooner.

This alternative also avoids disruption of the sensitive Currituck Sound, one of the largest over-wintering spots for birds on the east coast.


To see the full alternative proposal, click here.

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A Heavy Toll from Proposed Span across Currituck Sound

The North Carolina Department of Transportation wants to build a $600M seven-mile toll bridge across the Currituck Sound to the northernmost section of the Outer Banks. An outdated and unnecessary project first proposed decades ago, the Mid-Currituck Bridge has resurfaced as a toll project. It would usher in a host of ill effects, including

  • further beachfront development in an area already vulnerable to erosion, hurricanes, rising sea levels, and other threats likely to become more severe as a result of global climate change;
  • damage to water quality and aquatic habitat in the Currituck estuary; and
  • thousands more vehicles and traffic on the beaches of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge.

The bridge would also put further stress on other nature preserves and natural heritage sites in the area that are vital not only to migratory birds and other wildlife but also to nature-related tourism.

A Financial Burden

The bridge would place an unnecessary burden on the state’s financial coffers. Tolls would be high—as much as $26 per vehicle—but would cover only a fraction of the bridge’s $600 million price tag. In 2013, the Southern Environmental Law Center worked with a diverse coalition of groups from both sides ot the political aisle to pass legislation that removed earmarked funding for the bridge and made it subject to a partially data-driven scoring system. Still, local politicians who insist the $600M bridge be constructed have determined to set aside almost the entire transportation budget for North Carolina's coastal region to construct the bridge. The net effect would be to rob scarce funds needed for more pressing transportation needs, including needed improvements to stretches of NC 12 that frequently wash out.

Inadequate Analysis

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed formal objections to the NCDOT's analysis of the $600M bridge's environmental impacts. In addition to failing to assess the project’s full impacts on the area and life, the analysis failed to consider more sensible and less harmful alternatives, such as improvements to existing roads and bridges or ferry service across the sound. Shallow-draft ferries now being used effectively in other coastal areas could be ideal for this location.

Governor McCrory recently promised to accelerate bridge construction. SELC is working alongside local opponents from the Aydlet and Corolla areas and conservation groups to ensure that state and federal agencies take an objective look at this ill-conceived project and to disclose its true impact on the North Carolina coast and the natural treasures that make it so special. 
 

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