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Mid-Currituck Bridge Delayed – New Traffic Forecasts Show Bridge Not Needed

Press Release

October 17, 2016

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— The schedule for constructing the controversial Mid-Currituck Bridge—an expensive and environmentally destructive seven mile toll-bridge that would connect the Outer Banks town of Corolla with mainland Currituck County—has again been delayed.  Last week, the North Carolina Department of Transportation confirmed that the project’s schedule was pushed back as the agency continues to study the need for the bridge and the viability of alternative solutions after new data showed a drastically reduced traffic forecast. The governor previously announced last November that the bridge project had been accelerated and construction would begin in the summer of 2017. 

Representing a group of local citizens opposing the bridge, the Southern Environmental Law Center welcomed the news that NCDOT will not rush forward with the $678 million project. “We’re encouraged that NCDOT is taking the time to consider whether the Mid-Currituck Bridge is really the best transportation solution for Currituck County,” said Kym Hunter, an attorney with the law center. “If NCDOT really takes a thorough look at this project based on current data we’re convinced that they’ll conclude it’s a long-outdated idea that would waste the area’s transportation dollars while causing significant environmental harm.”

New data obtained by SELC from NCDOT suggests that the delay might stem from questions about the need for the bridge and its financial viability.  The new data show that future traffic volumes on the Northern Outer Banks are now estimated to be significantly lower than previously anticipated by NCDOT—in some instances almost half of earlier estimates.   The new data raise serious concerns about the fiscal burden that will be placed on taxpayers if NCDOT moves ahead with the bridge.  The bridge ranked low under the state transportation scoring system and only $173 million has been set aside to pay for the costly project.  New estimates, however, place the expected cost of the bridge at up to $678 million—meaning that over $500 million may need to be covered by drivers paying tolls.  With the new traffic numbers showing dramatically lower expected usage of the bridge it seems unlikely this revenue will materialize, raising questions as to who will pick up the tab.  So far, NCDOT has failed to present any financial path forward for the project. 

“Not only will the Mid-Currituck Bridge destroy the character of Currituck County, it will place an immense financial burden on coastal taxpayers” said Jen Symonds, leader of NoMCB, a local citizens group that has long opposed the bridge.  “NCDOT’s new numbers confirm what we’ve been saying for years, the bridge is a colossal waste of taxpayer money. Coastal residents, visitors and taxpayers would be better served by smart, focused improvements to the existing highway system.”   When NCDOT last studied the bridge tolls were estimated to be as high as $26 for a one way trip.  Now that estimated use of the bridge has diminished so significantly tolls might need to be as high as $50 per trip to come close to paying for the pricey project.   ###

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC’s team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

Mid-Currituck Bridge Delayed

Mid-Currituck Bridge delayed; new traffic forecasts show bridge not needed | Southern Environmental Law Center

SELC uses the power of the law to champion all the things you love about the South: clean water, healthy air, mountains, forests, rural countryside, and the coast.


S.E.L.C. to Meet with Mainland Bridge Opponents


Climate Change Must Be Addressed in Bridge Studies

New climate change guidelines make for better decision-making

New federal guidelines require agencies to consider climate change when evaluating proposals, providing a vital tool to inform and improve public decision-making. (© Robert Llewellyn)

Today the Obama Administration released guidelines on how federal agencies should consider climate change when assessing proposed projects.

The guidelines, which apply to all federal projects reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act, will impact decisions involving everything from transportation projects to power plants, pipelines, and oil drilling. Until now federal agencies have been inconsistent in how they considered climate change in project reviews, often ignoring it completely.

When reviewing any new project, the agencies must consider both the direct and indirect impacts of greenhouse gas emissions. For a proposed new highway, for example, federal agencies will need to consider the greenhouse gas impacts of building the highway, as well as the emissions that would result from additional sprawl or traffic. Perhaps most significantly in informing decision-making, agencies are now required to quantify and compare the climate changing effect of different alternatives, allowing the public an easy way to see which alternatives will have the least impact.

“This guidance will allow us to better tackle the challenges of climate change,” said Kym Hunter, attorney in SELC’s Chapel Hill office. “But it also provides greater transparency and more information to help make decisions about where our limited federal dollars are spent. These guidelines give all taxpayers a better accounting of the impacts and costs of federal projects.”

SELC has commented on the adminstration’s draft guidelines multiple times as they have been in development the past eight years, particularly asking for a greater focus on transportation. In the Southeast, transportation is now the leading contributor to climate change-causing pollution.

In addition to transportation, the guidelines have significant implications for coastal spending and development. The guidance specifically refers to transportation projects on coastal barrier islands, such as proposed bridges in the Outer Banks, and directs agencies to consider the consequences of rebuilding with sea level rise and more intense storms. It also discusses how chemical facilities near the coast could have increased risk of spills or leakages, putting local communities at risk.

While draft versions of the guidelines had set a greenhouse gas emissions threshold to trigger consideration—something SELC urged against—the final version removed that and now requires climate change analysis for all projects.

“We know Southeastern coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, so this is a huge step forward for better decision making in our region,” said Hunter. “Just asking the question of how each project will affect and be affected by climate change could lead to better decisions about transportation, coastal development, and energy production.”


SELC Mid-Currituck Bridge

Mid-Currituck Bridge, NC | Southern Environmental Law Center

SELC uses the power of the law to champion all the things you love about the South: clean water, healthy air, mountains, forests, rural countryside, and the coast.


Presentation Given by the SELC June 1, 2016

SELC Mid-Currituck Presentation



S.E.L.C. Community Meeting June 1, 2016

SELC Community Meeting June 1 2016

SELC Letter to NCBOT Nov. 2015







Accelerated Timeline Questionable

The timeline is a farce and NCDOT knows it!

1. There is no Record of Decision. No R.O.D., no bridge.

2. They are trying to fund 60% of the cost with toll revenue bonds and without the “gap” funding that was removed from statute, $28 million/year for 30-40 years; no private equity- the PPP was canceled last December; and no Federal T.I.F.I.A. loan all of which were needed to keep the tolls as $26 each way during peak travel times, the tolls will be vastly higher and will probably be cost prohibitive.

3. A Financial feasibility study still needs to be done to determine if the project is viable. The North Carolina Turnpike Authority annual report indicates that study won’t be complete until 2017 sometime, so the project has not been determined to be financially feasible.

4. A supplemental EIS needs to be done as the environmental documents are too old and inadequate.

5. There is no accounting for lawsuit delays which add at least 1.5 years+ to timeline.

So Governor McCrory, whose signature Strategic Transportation Investments law to remove politics from transportation decision making,  has reversed course and is now touting the poster child of politically polluted transportation projects – the very reason for his S.T.I. law in the first place.

Mid-Currituck Bridge Timeline Accelerated

There are many concerned citizens and vacationers that support the SELC in their efforts against Mid-Currituck Bridge, an unnecessary, extremely expensive, and environmentally damaging project.


The cost of the project has ranged from $750 million in a 2010 Letter of Interest for a federal T.I.F.I.A. loan to a “normalized cost” of $410 million for scoring purposes only during the P3.0 process. As recently as November 2014 the federally approved STIP cited a cost of $621 million. One month later the new draft STIP listed the cost at $475 million, $65 million more than the cost used for scoring. Now the NCDOT claims the project cost is $435 million. The NCDOT has not explained the drastic $200 million drop in the price tag. The Public Private Partnership has been cancelled; the annual $28 million per year “gap” funding has been removed from state statute, so the tolls would be much higher than the $26 toll each way.


Bridge supporters also claim the bridge is needed for hurricane evacuation. According to the FEIS, adding an additional outbound lane on US158 or using the center turn lane for hurricane evacuation would be more effective. It is up to the county to call for an evacuation, not the state nor the feds. Hurricane tracking today gives days, not hours of advanced warning of impending landfall so the bridge is not “needed” for that purpose. Just 4 years ago, hurricane Irene slammed this area a week before Labor Day, with a 7 foot storm surge hitting Duck, everyone was evacuated safely.


To alleviate the heavy traffic experienced on NC12 north of US158 during the tourist season, the least expensive and environmentally damaging alternative that would provide the most relief would be to widen the existing road, the ER2 alternative that was part of the FEIS, the alternative that the bridge supporters oppose. If you don’t add sufficient capacity to NC12 by adding additional lanes, the traffic will not improve since once the vacationers arrive, as they travel NC12 throughout the week. The bridge would not affect any of that traffic but would add to the congestion due to the increase of day trippers from Virginia and surrounding areas. A major known problem is Duck’s 60 foot right of way with development close to the road. The standard right of way is 80 feet. As we all know, Duck’s speed limit is 25 with single lane traffic in each direction. Fix the problem where the problem lies at a much lower cost to the tax payers and the environment.


We live and earn our living here because of our natural environment. Fishing, hunting and recreational activities bring vacationers that drive our economy. The bridge project will damage the Currituck Sound from polluted bridge runoff among a host of other issues, increase pressure on the 4 wheel drive area with increased traffic on the northern beaches, and lead to the wildly popular Corolla wild horses being penned up like they are in Ocracoke for their own safety.

Our local politicians have heavily lobbied to tell you that the bridge is “needed” for economic development of the Currituck OBX. That is the claim that was used in the 1980’s when the bridge was first discussed. They claimed then, as they are now, that the Currituck OBX cannot be developed without the bridge. Today, Corolla is more than 70% built out so, that “need” along with the others falls flat.

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