After forty years of back and forth, the proposed connection from the Currituck County mainland to the Outer Banks has taken a major step forward.
On March 8, 2019, the Record of Decision (ROD) was received from the Federal Highway Administration for the Mid-Currituck Bridge (MCB).
What does that mean?
Simply put, the ROD document is formal federal approval of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the MCB. It authorizes the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority to move the project forward and begin acquiring land needed for the project’s right of way, to obtain environmental permits and advance construction plans.
“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. “The Mid-Currituck Bridge will provide much-needed transportation improvements for hurricane evacuation clearance times and connectivity to the Outer Banks.”
The official NCDOT press release stated that the "need for an east-west crossing of the Currituck Sound was first identified in 1975 and formal planning began in 1995 by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The Turnpike Authority became involved in the project in 2006 when local leaders considered funding the project with toll revenue."
“This is an important project for everyone who lives on or visits the Outer Banks,” said Dan Scanlon, Currituck County Manager. “It is encouraging to see the state reach this milestone after years of hard work from so many people.”
The Record of Decision allows NCDOT and the Turnpike Authority to move the project forward and begin acquiring land needed for the project’s right of way, to obtain environmental permits and advance construction plans.
As described in the Record of Decision document: "The proposed action includes construction of a 4.7-mile-long, two lane toll bridge (the Mid-Currituck Bridge) across Currituck Sound between the communities of Aydlett on the mainland and Corolla on the Outer Banks, an interchange between US 158 and the mainland approach road to the bridge, a bridge across Maple Swamp as a part of the mainland approach road, limited improvements to existing NC 12 and US 158, and primarily reversing the center turn lane on US 158 to improve hurricane clearance times."
The document also points out that the Mid-Currituck Bridge will:
- substantially improve traffic flow on the project area’s thoroughfares (US 158 and NC 12)
- substantially reduce travel time for persons traveling between the Currituck County mainland and the Currituck County Outer Banks
- substantially reduce evacuation times from the Outer Banks for residents and visitors
who use US 158 and NC 168 as an evacuation route
Public safety will be one of the biggest benefits of the Mid-Currituck Bridge. An additional hurricane evacuation route for Outer Banks residents and visitors is long overdue. Currently, hurricane evacuation clearance times fail to meet the state designated standards of 18 hours. The 40-mile shortcut is expected to provide a travel time savings of about two hours, one-way, during peak travel periods.
While Currituck County officials are encouraged by the Record of Decision, they also understand that federal approval will likely trigger lawsuits by groups opposed to the MCB and organizations such as the Southern Environmental Law Center.
In a 2017 letter to Jim Trogdon, the NC Secretary of Transportation, one opposition group expressed concern about "the effect the bridge would have on natural resources and character of the Currituck Mainland and the Outer Banks."
Another 2017 op-ed published in the Virginian-Pilot states that "public officials have used a fabricated need for increased hurricane evacuation capacity" to "instill fear" and "drive support for the bridge."
In a Daily Advance article published on Friday, March 8, Rep. Bobby Hanig, R-Curituck was optimistic that any pending lawsuit would not be "a long, drawn-out issue."
“It's good to see it finally come to fruition,” Hanig told the paper. “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.”
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