Sunday, January 22, 2012

NC Turnpike Authority completes Final Environmental Impact Statement

What is being billed as a significant step in the process to build the Mid-Currituck Bridge, the NC Turnpike Authority has completed and released the Final Environmental Impact Statement. They have also revised their timeline (below). Little matters until we confirm the money exists for this project, which is less certain, given the make-up of NC politics these days. See related article below from the Daily Advance

Project Schedule (subject to change)

Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Final Environmental Impact Statement

Record of Decision
2nd Quarter 2012

Begin Final Design
2nd Quarter 2012

Begin Construction
4th Quarter 2012

Project Open to Traffic

Environment study recommends mid-Currituck bridge

By Cindy Beamon
The Daily Advance

Friday, January 20, 2012

CURRITUCK — Plans for the $660 million mid-county bridge cleared a last major hurdle Thursday with release of the final environmental impact statement by the N.C. Turnpike Authority.

The study recommends the preferred alternative for the project, which involves construction of a seven-mile toll bridge across the Currituck Sound, as well as limited improvements to existing N.C. Highway 12 and U.S. Highway 158.
The Turnpike Authority, the state agency in charge of the bridge project said federal approval is expected this spring when the Federal Highway Administration issues its record of decision on the bridge. The Turnpike Authority said construction is set to begin by late this year and the bridge will open to traffic in 2017.

“The approval of this FEIS marks an important step forward for this project, which has been years in the making,” said David Joyner, executive director of the Turnpike Authority. “As the environmental planning process nears completion, the Turnpike Authority will determine over the next few months whether to proceed with the public-private partnership option or utilize municipal financing to build the project.”

Supporters applauded the possibility Tuesday that construction could begin soon, but opponents said the project is still far from being certain.

Jennifer Symonds, a long-time opponent of the bridge, said if the project proceeds as the Turnpike Authority expects, “there will be a lawsuit without a doubt.”

She said the Turnpike Authority is overly optimistic about its timeline to begin work. One major obstacle — how the project will be funded — still remains shaky, she said.

Supporters of the project were more optimistic that plans would go according to schedule.

State Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, said he’s hoping builders will break ground before he leaves office in 2012.

“It’s just one of the last remaining large items on my bucket list that I had to do as a politician,” said Owens.

John Rorer, chairman of the Currituck Board of Commissioners, said the county has already been making plans for the major construction project.

“This will open up a whole new wealth of opportunities for people in Currituck County,” Rorer said.

Financing for the project still remains uncertain. The Turnpike Authority said it will be weighing two options: a public-private partnership or state financing alone.

Rorer said he viewed the review of options as a good sign that the project will not hinge on what private investors decide.

Owens said the Turnpike Authority is “keeping its options open” but is not overly concerned about losing private backing for the project.

But Symonds said the funding issue is still far from resolved. Lawmakers nearly cut funding last year, and the project may face a similar challenge this year — but without the presence of its two major proponents, Owens and retired state Sen. Marc Basnight on board, she said.

The Environmental Impact Statement includes a preferred route for the bridge.

The preferred alternative for the bridge will place the toll plaza on the Currituck mainland at U.S. Highway 158 north of Aydlett with a bridge across Maple Swamp. Aydlett Road will remain open to traffic and turning movements would not be restricted at Waterlily Road. A median acceleration lane will be added to aid safe turns at Waterlily Road and U.S. 158.

The landing point for the bridge in Corolla would pass between the Corolla Bay subdivision and the northern end of Monteray Shores subdivision. The bridge approach will be at least 300 feet away from the homes and lots west off N.C. 12.

The project is expected to reduce travel time and congestion, as well as provide an alternative hurricane evacuation route for the northern Outer Banks.

The FEIS and supporting documents are available on the project website at By Feb. 3, hard copies of the FEIS may be viewed at the Currituck County Courthouse; public libraries in Corolla, Currituck County, and Dare County; the Town of Duck Administrative Building; town halls in Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores; the N.C. Department of Transportation Maintenance Yard Office in Maple; as well as by appointment at the Turnpike Authority Office in Raleigh.

Comments regarding the FEIS will be accepted until March 12. They can be e-mailed to or mailed to Jennifer Harris, North Carolina Turnpike Authority, 1578 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1578.

FEIS can be found here