Monday, October 26, 2009

NCTA Answers County's Assumptions

A follow-up article has been printed in the Daily Advance addressing some of the County Commissioners assumption that the NCTA is caving to environmental pressures. Below is the article for the Daily Advance's Toby Tate:

Engineer: No deal on span plan

By Toby Tate
Staff Writer

Saturday, October 24, 2009

While the negative public reaction to an option for the Mid-Currituck Bridge project wasn’t unexpected, a state official says it’s not true the option represents a “deal” to appease environmentalists’ concerns about the bridge project.

Jennifer Harris, an engineer with the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, in fact says the plan, referred to as “Option B,” is not being pushed by environmentalists, even though it addresses an existing environmental issue — the division of Maple Swamp.

“We meet with environmentalists very regularly,” Harris said. “The idea about us striking a deal — I don’t know where that came from. We met with resource and regulatory environmental agencies and discussed the benefits and disadvantages of this opportunity and they didn’t object to us studying it.”

Harris was responding to a recent news report that the Turnpike Authority had struck a deal with environmentalists by proposing Option B for the mid-county bridge project.

In addition, Currituck Commissioner Barry Nelms said at a recent Currituck commissioners meeting that Option B was proposed to “appease” environmentalists. Nelms and the other six members of the Board of Commissioners have adopted a resolution formally opposing the option because they say it will negatively affect the Aydlett community.

Under Option B — one of three options for the bridge project — most of the existing Aydlett Road that now serves the Aydlett community would be removed. A new road north of the community would be constructed. Traffic bound for both Aydlett and the mid-county bridge would use the new road, which would include exits for Aydlett residents. The new road would also contain toll booths for the bridge.

Turnpike officials have touted Option B, saying it would both save money — taking $60 million off the bridge’s $660 million cost — and make improvements to the natural environment in Aydlett.

“We’ve been studying this project for a few years and doing the engineering work under a few parameters and a few assumptions,” Harris said at an Oct. 12 meeting in Currituck. “(This option) could save the project a considerable amount of money and help the project be more financially feasible as well as from a natural environment standpoint provide some improvements.”

The chief improvement removing Aydlett Road would make is that it would reconnect Maple Swamp, Harris said.

“Aydlett Road is essentially a dam in between two parts of Maple Swamp,” she said during the Oct. 12 meeting. “It keeps the swamp from being a continuous natural feature.”

Many Aydlett residents, however, oppose the option because they say it will increase traffic in their community and disrupt their rural quality of life. In their resolution, Currituck commissioners endorsed a plan that keeps Aydlett Road and puts the toll booths for the bridge closer to U.S. Highway 158.

Harris said the reaction from Currituck residents and officials wasn’t entirely unexpected.

“I can’t say that I didn’t expect that reaction,” she said. “(Option B) does have different effects on the community. How that (option) relates to the community is different from (how) ‘Option A’ (affects the community) and that’s why we went” to the Oct. 12 meeting.

Harris said no final decisions have been made about which option will be selected for the bridge plan. And despite commissioners and residents’ opposition, she believes Option B is a viable plan that should be considered.

“I think the component that preserves a large portion of Maple Swamp is a key component” of the bridge plan, Harris said. “We’re looking at trying to minimize the impact with something that is financially feasible. You can do a project that avoids and minimizes impacts at a cost or you can minimize cost at an impact to the human and natural environment. We’re looking at a plan that doesn’t have detrimental effects but is also financially feasible.”

The purpose for the new bridge, according to the Turnpike Authority, is to improve traffic flow between U.S. 158 and N.C. Highway 12, reduce the travel time for those traveling between the Currituck mainland and the Outer Banks and speed up evacuation of the Outer Banks during hurricanes.

The Turnpike Authority is currently studying the proposed bridge’s impact on the environment. Once that study is complete, the Turnpike Authority will release it for comment to federal and state agencies as well as the public.

Regardless of which option is chosen, Harris believes the bridge project will go forward. Not building the bridge won’t solve the problem of ever-increasing traffic headed to the Outer Banks.

“The alternative to do nothing is an option that wouldn’t address transportation needs,” she said. “You have different users and you have to listen to all perspectives. We have to have an understanding that there are some people there all year long and some who visit, so it’s a unique dynamic.”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Currituck Commissioners Oppose Two Bridge Proposals

From the County's website, the Commissioners adopted a resolution opposing the bridge landing options on the mainland. Below is from the County's e-newsletter and the resolution link is below:

Commissioners Adopt Mid-Currituck Bridge Resolution
Board United in Opposition to NCDOT's Aydlett Proposal

The Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution on October 19, 2009 to oppose two aspects of the state's plan for the Mid-Currituck Bridge after a significant number of citizens spoke against items in the state's proposal.

The document outlines the county's opposition to Option B for the Aydlett interchange, which would involve removing the current Aydlett Rd. and placing a toll booth plaza in close proximity to the Aydlett community. The resolution also states the board's opposition to the proposed placement of a barrier wall at the intersection of Waterlily Rd. and U.S. 158. If built, the wall would force motorists from Waterlily Rd. wishing to travel south on U.S. 158 to first travel north on U.S, 158 over the Coinjock Bridge and then make a maneuver into the southbound lanes.

Click here for a full copy of the resolution

Monday, October 19, 2009

More affirmative talk about the Currituck Bridge to the Outer Banks

I was trying to figure out why my phone was going crazy this morning with people wanting to put in offers or "get serious" about real estate. I then realized I should have read the paper this morning. It appears the Virginia-Pilot's Jeff Hampton is confident on the bridge to the Outer Banks. Below is the article:

Shortcut to paradise: Toll bridge to the Outer Banks

What’s ahead
An environmental assessment is due before year’s end. Construction could begin early next year and completion is projected for 2013.

By Jeff Hampton
The Virginian-Pilot
© October 19, 2009
Corolla has long been one of Currituck County's favorite - and most remote - Outer Banks travel havens.

Getting there requires making what is essentially a giant U-turn that can add more than a hour's drive.

Those familiar with the jaunt know that first you must drive south almost to Kitty Hawk before crossing the Currituck Sound. Then you flip around on N.C. 12 and head north toward Corolla, land of wild horses, a lighthouse and isolated beaches.

After about 20 years of debate, state and local officials and environmentalists are near agreement on a $659 million shortcut: a 5-mile bridge over the sound that would link Corolla to a small town about a 40-minute drive from the Virginia-North Carolina line.

State engineers have partnered with a private construction group that will lead the design, construction and operation, including toll collection, estimated to be $8 each way during the peak season and $6 during offseason.

A 2007 study estimated the bridge would draw an average of 13,500 vehicles daily on peak-season weekends, with revenues of $7 million in its first year.

By 2025, traffic counts are expected to average 19,200 daily on summer weekends, with tolls at $12 and annual revenue of $24.9 million. The state budget includes $15 million annually in public money to help finance the project.

A draft environmental impact statement is due out before the end of the year. By February or March, construction could begin on the bridge, with completion expected in 2013.

Proponents say the bridge will relieve congestion on U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 through Duck, hasten hurricane evacuation, lower costs of construction in Corolla and expedite county services there.

Most elected officials - including North Carolina state Sen. Marc Basnight - and residents in Dare and Currituck counties have supported the project even before it was first put on a state highway plan in 1989.

"We need that bridge bad," said Gene Gregory, a Currituck commissioner who has pushed for construction more than 20 years. "We've been on the verge two or three times before something has popped up to delay the thing again."

Since the project's inception, state and federal environmental agencies weighed its value versus its effects on the environment.

In 2004, after a multiyear study, the state determined that widening U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 would relieve traffic better than a bridge.

But a local grass roots group, Build the Bridge - Preserve Our Roads, paid for a study that determined the bridge would be better and cheaper.

In Aydlett, a community of about 1,000 people without a traffic light or a gas station, residents opposed the intrusion to their quiet neighborhood. Aydlett sits on the shore of the Currituck Sound and is about 25 miles from the Virginia border.

Last week, state officials announced another option for the Aydlett side that renewed opposition. To save $60 million, the new road would be on the ground through the swamp with culverts to allow passage of water and animals.

Toll booths would be in Aydlett. Local traffic could use the new road to get to the highway. Aydlett Road, the existing road, would be removed to allow better water flow.

"That's the craziest thing I've ever heard," resident Mike Doxey said. "I am strongly against it."

Residents plan to file a petition against the latest option, Doxey said.

Penny Leary-Smith, an Aydlett property owner, also opposed the new option.

"When you have people leaving that meeting in tears, that's wrong," she said.

Even local officials who have supported the project all along don't like this idea.

"The Board of Commissioners does not support putting that traffic in Aydlett," said Paul O'Neal, a Currituck County commissioner. "That community would never be the same."

Others warn about traffic and crime flowing into Corolla as access becomes more convenient.

"People come to the Currituck Outer Banks because of its remote, pristine nature," Corolla resident Barry Richman said.

Large highway projects usually increase crime nearby, he said. Corolla already has problems with break-ins during the off-season, but now criminals will have easier access and more than one way out of town, he said.

Basnight still supports the bridge even with the cost-saving measures, said Schorr Johnson, a Basnight spokesman.

Public hearings will be held on the options, said Jennifer Harris, an engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

But these objections are not expected to slow construction, Gregory said.

"I feel strongly that it's going to happen this time," he said.

After the earlier setbacks, the project nearly died in 2005 when the North Carolina General Assembly assigned it to the state Turnpike Authority to use tolls and a private-public partnership to speed up construction.

The Turnpike Authority agreed in December 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.

Traditionally in North Carolina, contractors bid on projects already designed by the state and make no financial investment.

Two years ago, Basnight asked that the bridge include such Earth-friendly designs as solar powered lighting, a bicycle and walking path made from recycled plastics and a look that better blends with the Currituck Sound environment. Those features remain options, Johnson said.

Once completed, a new road would intersect with U.S. 158 about a mile south of Coinjock, travel east around two miles through a swamp, pass through Aydlett where the bridge would begin and go about five miles over the Currituck Sound to Corolla. Toll booths would be placed near U.S. 158.

On both sides, the bridge follows generally vacant areas and would displace about 11 residences.

In Corolla, plans include two terminus options, one near the TimBuck II shopping center and the other about 1.5 miles north near the Corolla Bay subdivision.

In contrast, the four-lane Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge from Mann's Harbor to Roanoke Island was approved by the state in 1996 to replace the 43-year-old William B. Umstead Bridge, which was previously the only crossing over the Croatan Sound.

By 1998, Balfour Beatty Construction, Inc. of Atlanta was awarded the contract for the 5.2 mile bridge, the longest in the state.

Costing $89 million, the bridge opened in August 2002, taking seven years from start to finish.

Here's the timeline to date:


■1989 Bridge first placed on a state highway plan after years of discussion.
■1996 State purchases land in Corolla for bridge landing. Bridge cost estimates range from $47 million to $71 million.
■1998 Bridge plans and possible landing sites presented at public hearings. Aydlett residents oppose the project. Cost estimate is now $87 million.
■2001 Bridge project stalls after state officials announce study that could take years. Officials say bridge’s environmental impact may not be worth its e ffect on traffic flow. Cost estimate is now $97 million.
■2002 North Carolina Turnpike Authority created to expedite construction of several state road projects.
■2004 State unveils traffic study that says widening U.S. 158 and N.C. 12 would relieve traffic flow better than a mid-county bridge. Currituck and Duck officials and residents disagree with conclusions. Bridge cost estimate is $103 million.
■2005 General Assembly passes bill authorizing Turnpike Authority to plan and build a toll bridge over Currituck Sound using private financing and construction. Cost estimate is $118 million.
■2006 A study by a transportation institute at North Carolina State University estimat es the cost at $156 million.
■2007 Turnpike Authority releases study that shows tolls could be $8 to $12. Bridge costs estimates are adjusted to better reflect inflation and design to $296 to $795 million.
■2009 ACS Infrastructure Development, a private company, to lead construction and operation of toll bridge. Estimate firmed up to $659 million.
■Oct. 12, 2009 State puts forth option to let the bridge land in Aydlett rather than go overhead all the way to U.S. 158. Revision could save $60 million. Aydlett residents and Currituck commissioners oppose that option.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mid-Curituck Bridge exploring additional option of Configuration

The Turnpike Authority came into the County to discuss another design idea for the bridge to improve traffic flow and likely to lessen the overall blow of the environmental impact. Commissioner Nelms commented in the article below from the Daily Advance and seems to already know it is not feasible and says the board doesn't support removing the stars from Aydlett...which is a daunting feasibilty effort in its own right. Below is the article from the Daily Advance's Toby Tate.

New Currituck bridge option unveiled

Aydlett Road concerns raised
By Toby Tate
Staff Writer

Monday, October 12, 2009

About 40 Currituck residents turned out Monday evening to hear engineers from the North Carolina Turnpike Authority discuss a new plan for the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge.

The purpose of the new bridge, according to the Turnpike Authority, is to substantially improve traffic flow on the project area’s thoroughfare between N.C. Highway 12 and U.S. Highway 158, to reduce travel time for those traveling between the Currituck mainland to the Outer Banks and to reduce hurricane clearance time during an evacuation.

The project, which includes three different alternative plans, would likely include road improvements and the widening of parts of U.S. 158 and N.C. 12.

According to NCTA Engineer Jennifer Harris, the latest option, called simply “Option B,” would include taking out Aydlett Road and moving traffic to the new road.

“We’ve been studying this project for a few years and doing the engineering work under a few parameters and a few assumptions,” Harris said. “An idea will be presented which could save the project a considerable amount of money and help the project be more financially feasible as well as from a natural environment standpoint provide some improvements.”

The improvements to the Option B plan include relocating the toll collection booths and putting Aydlett Road traffic on the new highway. All but a small portion of Aydlett Road would then be removed, Harris said.

“Aydlett Road is essentially a dam in between two parts of Maple Swamp — it keeps the swamp from being a continuous natural feature,” she said.

First, according to Harris, an environmental impact study would be completed to determine if the plan is feasible. The plan would save the approximately $660 million project about $60 million, Harris said, and protect the natural environment of the Maple Swamp area.

Most of the local residents, however, voiced concerns about the feasibility of the plan, about how the project would be paid for and about how the road would affect Aydlett residents.

Currituck Commissioner Barry Nelms also voiced his concerns at the meeting about Option B.

“Plan B is not feasible and board stands against it,” he said. “You are obviously catering to the environmentalists by moving (Aydlett) road. To move it to their immediate neighborhood is going to take out the stars they see at night forever and that’s not acceptable to the residents of Aydlett,” he said.

NCTA Chief Engineer Steve Dewitt said his team was there to consider all possible options with the local community.

“I’m not here to sell a bridge,” he said. “I’m just here to talk about what elected officials asked us to do.”

The current timeline has the bridge open to traffic in 2013.

The U.S. Coast Guard will also be sending out a preliminary public notice to request navigational information in the Currituck Sound, Harris said.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Historic Wash Woods Life Saving Station Serves Again - Now as Twiddy's 4x4 Real Estate Office

I rarely do personal updates on this information website but I felt it prudent to let those who follow this site and love the 4x4 Beaches of Carova know that I now operate full time out of the old Coast Guard Station located 8 miles North of the paved road. Twiddy & Company has always had a strong presence in the 4x4 area and service is something we pride ourselves on. Wash Woods, as it is locally known, is uniquely positioned to better serve both Buyers and Sellers with their real estate needs in the off road area and is a hub of information, history, and professional service. When you are next in the area, stop in for a visit, I am here nearly every day.

I thought I would share some photos and history of Wash Woods as there is really no other place like it:

The United States Coast Guard built Wash Woods Station in 1917 to replace an earlier
station a few miles north, and numbered “166” in the chain of stations along the
Atlantic coast. During its years of active duty, Wash Woods housed guardsmen who performed countless brave rescues. When German U-boats were thick off the coast during World War II, Coast Guard stations along the Virginia and North Carolina shores prepared for conflict. At that time, Wash Woods was home to about 30 guardsmen. The lookout tower was constantly utilized and armed patrolmen walked the beach searching for signs of the enemy.

After the war, Wash Woods reverted back to standard pre-war-sized crew until 1949. Records indicate that the station remained active from thereafter with only a single caretaker until officially decommissioned in late 1954 or early 1955. In the years to come, Wash Woods Station served as a private vacation home. In 1988, Doug and Sharon Twiddy bought the station and began restoration. Carpet was stripped to reveal the original heart pine floors and the walls were restored to the original plaster finish. In 2007, the Twiddys rebuilt the boathouse in the likeness of the original structure.

In 2008, the cisterns were rebuilt and steps were taken to begin building a replica of the original lookout tower. The walls are now decorated with a collection of old photos of Wash Woods and Coast Guard memorabilia to share the history of this unique place with those who visit.

Feel free to stop by for a cup of coffee and get the real scoop on what is happening in the 4wd area real estate market. I look forward to seeing you.

Survey Conducted to Research Toll Amounts for Mid-County Bridge

As the potential increases for the Mid-County Bridge to finally come to fruition, determining the daily toll is being researched. Below if the full article from the Daily Advance's Toby Tate:

Span designers conduct online survey
By Toby Tate
Staff Writer

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How much would you pay to cross the Mid-Currituck Bridge?

That’s what the state agency overseeing the Currituck County bridge project wants to know from local residents.

The N.C. Turnpike Authority is conducting an online survey that asks residents of Currituck, Dare, Camden and Pasquotank counties how much of a toll they would be willing to pay to cross the bridge that will link the Currituck mainland and Outer Banks.

The survey, which is online at, also asks respondents how often they believe they would cross the bridge, whether they would cross it for business, commuting or vacation travel, and whether they would use the bridge under certain conditions, such as when summertime traffic is backed up on the Wright Memorial Bridge in Dare County.

The survey also asks participants questions about their permanent residence and their level of income.

According to Reid Simons, director of government and public affairs for the Turnpike Authority, the “willingness to pay” survey is part of the Investment Grade

Traffic and Revenue Study being completed by the group in charge of building the bridge, the Currituck Development Group and its sub-consultant, NuStats.

“It’s an exclusive study that certifies the projected revenue of a roadway,” Simons said. “It’s what the Turnpike Authority will use to get the credit to sell bonds to build the road.”

With a price tag of $660 million, the Mid-Currituck Bridge is expected to be one of the first toll road projects in the state. Estimates for the toll have ranged from $6 per crossing to $30.

In an e-mail, Simons said a research team completed an earlier willingness to pay survey of visitors to the Outer Banks during the peak season of the summer. The team is now focusing on off-peak season traffic, specifically residents of the four counties expected to use the bridge more than others.

The Investment Grade Traffic and Revenue Study is to be complete next spring.

Planned for decades, construction on the mid-county bridge is expected to get under way late next year and be complete in 2013.

The bridge’s designers are currently studying the proposed span’s environmental impacts. A draft environmental impact statement on the bridge should be ready in November. Public workshops on the DEIS will be held after the study’s release, officials.

The Currituck Development Group’s partners on the project include ACS Infrastructure Development, Inc.; Dragados USA, Inc.; and Lochner-MMM Group.