mid-currituck bridge news = the good + the bad
The news is out that the Mid-Currituck Bridge (MCB) is back on track, which for long-suffering OBX vacationers has got to be considered GREAT news, but summertime visitors who get stuck in traffic aren’t the only ones taking note. Residents of lower Currituck County, who are trapped on either side of Caratoke Highway for hours on end every summer weekend, are also hoping the project moves forward. But longtime Outer Bankers have learned not to hold our breath for this bridge.
For those of you new to this idea, here is the plan, according to NCDOT, “The proposed project calls for transportation improvements in the Currituck Sound area with focus on the consideration of a Mid-Currituck Bridge. The proposed action is defined as a 7.0-mile-long two-lane toll bridge across Currituck Sound, with approach roads, in Currituck County.”
While it’s good news that State Senator Bill Cook has gotten the MCB back into the NCDOT planning pipeline, it’s not time to pop any champagne corks yet, as there are a lot of questions that have not been answered.
First, construction for the bridge itself is not scheduled to begin until 2019 with a completion date of 2024. And, as the saying goes, we’ve been to this rodeo before. Just because the state says they’re planning on building this bridge, doesn’t mean they will build it. They’ve been trying to build this bridge for 30 years.
There are other concerns as well.
The new ranking system NCDOT is using allocates funds based on statewide, regional and divisional projects with the least amount of money given to divisional projects. Even if the MCB is given the highest priority within the division (which it has), it’s difficult to see where Division 1—northeast North Carolina—will find the funds to build the bridge.
First year cost projections after the sale of bonds—another issue of concern—is $27 million; the budget for all of Division one in 2014 was $25.5 million. There may be an adjustment by the time we get to 2019, but that would be one BIG adjustment.
Buried in the remarks of NCDOT officials at a recent Currituck County meeting to discuss short-term and medium-term solution to the traffic woes, was a mention that the MCB will have to undergo another evaluation and ranking in two years. Chances are it will continue to be a high priority, but is something that could change, again.
There is some truly good news in all of this: although a new Environmental Impact Statement will have to be issued, much of the heavy lifting has been done, and the 2019 iteration of the EIS should not be as contentious, time-consuming or difficult as the last one.
So the takeaway is, definitely good news for supporters of the bridge, but there is a long, long way to go. History has shown that this one is going be a marathon, not a sprint.