WNCN-TV - Outer Banks Real Estate Blog
OUTER BANKS, N.C. -- It might cost a bit, but North Carolina is studying a quicker way to get people to the northern Outer Banks by exploring two bridge projects.
The first project is exploration of building a "Mid-Currituck Bridge." It would be a toll road that would stretch for seven miles over the Currituck Sound, from the mainland to Corolla in the northern Outer Banks.
The bridge would cost roughly $500 million and would open by 2013. It would be expected to ease summer traffic and speed up hurricane evacuations.
"The time savings is expected to be up to an hour, and that's a huge savings on peak season," said David Joyner, North Carolina Turnpike Authority. "What we're looking at is a three-lane bridge, with one reversible lane on high traffic weekends."
Another major bridge project the state is looking at is the Bonner Bridge project.
The Bonner Bridge is a vital link that carries NC 12 between Bodie Island and Pea Island over Oregon Inlet.
The state will spend $43 million over the next six years just to keep the crumbling span open while a new bridge is built.
Construction of a new bridge is scheduled to start in 2009 and is scheduled to open in 2013. However, there are two versions of the new bridge state officials are looking at.
"We just need a resolution. Every week that goes by that bridge weakens," said Beth Midgett, who is lobbying for a new bridge.
The first option would be a 17-mile-long bridge across Pamlico Sound from Bodie Island to Rodanthe. Supporters say it's better for the environment because it misses the Pea Island national Wildlife Refuge. It would also end the worry over Route 12 washing out because the bridge would be better protected from hurricanes. It could cost as much as $1.8 billion.
The second option is a 2.7 mile short bridge to be built alongside the current bridge. Then Route 12 would be kept open by either constant sand nourishment or elevating the road on small bridges. This option maintains access to the wildlife refuge and it's slightly cheaper, about $1.2 billion dollars.
"The long bridge is probably helpful to the environment, but also eliminates the easy access people have gotten used to over the years," said Mike Bryant.
The decision gets tougher when the cost of constantly rebuilding Route 12 is figured in. The short bridge costs less now, but would be about the same as the long one over the long haul.
"We've looked at all the costs for construction and maintenance through 2060, and the Pamlico Sound Bridge and phased approach are actually pretty similar," said Beth Myre, of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Three years ago, state and federal transportation officials favored the long bridge. However, state officials changed their mind a year later and then changed it again. They now say all options are open.
Many Dare County officials like the short span. However, in the end, a decision may come down to what's politically possible.
Next Wednesday, representatives from 13 state and federal agencies will announce their choice.