December 4, 2014
Mid-Currituck bridge back on table in theThe
on-again off-again Mid-Currituck Bridge proposal is back on the table,
with its inclusion in the draft state transportation plan that was
released on Thursday.
state's 10-year transportation plan
By CATHERINE KOZAK
But the U.S. 64 widening and bridge replacement project between Columbia and Manns Harbor did not make the cut.
of the long-planned 7-mile toll bridge over Currituck Sound between
Aydlett and Corolla was considered all but doomed when the project was
rated a low priority for Division 1 in the recent North Carolina
Department of Transportation data-driven analysis of statewide
But the state still supported
getting the bridge built, said Malcolm Fearing, who represents Division
1 on the State Board of Transportation, and state and local officials
worked together to ensure that the bridge was programmed.
“It’s just a critical project to our area,” Fearing said. “This is a big deal for that transportation corridor.”
draft State Transportation Improvement Program, or STIP, includes costs
and schedules for transportation projects in the state for the next 10
years. According to a DOT press release, the plan includes a
total of about 1,100 projects. Of them, the statement said, 478 are
highway projects that will create 300,000 jobs.
more than 20 years ago, the bridge would cut about an hour off the
drive from Virginia to Corolla and drastically decrease heavy summer
traffic on U.S. 158 and Highway 12 from the Currituck mainland through
the communities on the northern Outer Banks. It would also speed
travelers through Currituck County bottlenecks and on to Hatteras and
Proponents, which include Currituck and Dare
counties, also say that the bridge is needed to speed up hurricane
evacuation and commuting time for seasonal workers and would increase
jobs on both sides of the bridge.
“I guess we got an early Christmas present,” said Currituck County manager Daniel Scanlon.
said that, considering the ongoing discussions with the state, the news
was not necessarily unexpected, but, nonetheless, welcomed.
“We have for quite some time been receiving positive statements of support from the leadership,” he said.
in the draft plan for 2019, when right of way acquisitions would start,
Scanlon said it likely will be up to seven years before the public sees
activity on the ground. Although he is confident the project could
withstand legal challenges, he said the timeline depends on whether a
lawsuit slows progress.
“We think everyone anticipates (an
environmental group) will sue the project, because that’s what they
do,” the manager said. “All the projects around here, that just seems
to be the automatic course of action.”
Constructed as a
public-private partnership, the project would depend on tolls for much
of its funding. Scanlon said that the toll amount would fluctuate
according to day and time. Preliminary figures, he said, have ranged
from as high as $25 during busiest hours in the summer, to as low as $2
on quiet off-season days. The idea is that the prices may inspire more
travel during less heavily traveled times, resulting in decreased
“At peak times and peak demand,” Scanlon said, “you’d pay peak dollar.”
Jennings, DOT division engineer, said that the total project costs for
the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge will be about $410 million, with the
state share being $173 million. The difference would be made up in toll
revenue. The amounts cited in the draft plan are slightly higher
updated figures, he said.
Jennings said that the STIP is
updated every two years – a process that in the past has pushed
projects off into the future or derailed them entirely. But now, he
said, projects that are scheduled for the next five years are locked
in. That means that the bridge will not be subject to re-prioritization
in the next update.
Still, he cautioned, every project potentially can be delayed by the permitting process, and, yes, legal action.
projects in the STIP, Jennings said, include the Pea Island and
Bonner Bridge projects, but they’re considered transitional projects
because they were scheduled before June 2015. The proposed plan
also has programmed replacement of a ferry boat, and improvements on
Colington Road that involves some widening with paved shoulders, turn
lanes and drainage.
Jennings said all the projects in the
proposed plan were funded through the division process. The fund
allocation for projects had been prioritized and divided by
category: 40 percent for statewide, 30 percent for regional, and
30 percent for transportation divisions. He said the criteria used is
being re-evaluated to consider more factors for rural areas, such as
seasonal congestion and hurricane evacuation routes.
comment period and public meetings will be held in March and April to
provide an opportunity for input on the draft plan. The STIP is
expected to be approved by the Board of Transportation in June