By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© June 9, 2010

The North Carolina House of Representatives’ budget leaves out $15 million for the Currituck mid-county bridge, a move that could threaten the project.

The Senate budget includes the $15 million.

“It endangers the whole project,” Schorr Johnson, spokesman for Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare.

Basnight will not support the house budget without bridge funding, he said. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, a House member representing Currituck and other local counties, was in budget meetings and could not be reached.

The House budget moves the $15 million to a “mobility fund” for state road projects that relieve congestion, Johnson said. But without the $15 million, private investors could back out, Johnson said. The House budget also moves $39 million from the Monroe Connector, another project of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, he said.

The General Assembly agreed in 2008 to set aside $15 million annually toward the bridge that would connect the Currituck mainland to Corolla at a cost ranging from $600,000 to more than $1 billion.

The Turnpike Authority agreed last year to partner with a private group headed by ACS Infrastructure Development, a subsidiary of a firm based in Spain. The ACS partners, collectively known as Currituck Development Group LLC, are also investors, following a pattern used in Europe.

Debated for more than 20 years, a lack of funding and environmental issues delayed the project. But more recently, using tolls, private investment and public funds, the bridge appeared to be on its way to completion by 2014.