Conservation organizations continue their fight against the proposed $500 million mid-Currituck bridge.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and No Mid-Currituck Bridge, a resident group from Currituck mainland and northern Outer Banks, filed Monday an appeal asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to “declare the illegal and outdated analysis prepared for the Mid-Currituck Bridge invalid,” the law center said.
The proposed 7-mile toll project includes a two-lane bridge across Currituck Sound connecting Currituck County mainland to the Outer Banks and a second two-lane bridge spanning Maple Swamp on the Currituck County mainland, connecting Aydlett to U.S. 158, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The bridge opponents contend that the project has not been through a legally required, public review of costs and impacts since 2012, despite significant changes over the past decade and that sea level rise projections now show the roads around the proposed toll bridge “will be under water and unusable long before the project will be paid for.”
Kym Hunter, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a statement that the project is a bad investment.
“The bridge would primarily serve out-of-state tourists and only for a few weekends in the summer. When you factor in the limited use, the availability of cheaper and less damaging alternatives, and that much of the bridge project area will soon begin to flood and become less reliable due to sea level rise, it is hard to think of a worse way for North Carolina to spend scarce transportation funds,” she said. “We urge Governor Cooper to think again before making this big and costly mistake. In the meantime, we will continue to challenge the illegal analysis in court.”
The law center, on behalf of the two organizations, filed a lawsuit in April 2019, challenging the Federal Highway Administration and NCDOT’s environmental analysis and decision document for the project.
A federal judge in December ruled in favor of the state and the Federal Highway Administration. The court found that the two agencies had complied with federal law.
State Rep. Bobby Hanig, R-Currituck, told Currituck County commissioners Thursday that the department’s work had resumed on the project and construction would begin early next year, the Daily Advance reported last week.
Hanig added that funding was in place to build the bridge and had been.
In January 2012, the N.C. Turnpike Authority and the Federal Highway Administration approved the final environmental impact statement for the project. The final environmental impact statement was reevaluated in 2019, confirming that the information was an accurate analysis with no supplemental environmental study required, according to NCDOT. The record of decision was published in 2019, bringing an end to the environmental study process.
Before construction begins, the state will need to update the traffic and revenue study as well as the toll financing plan, select a builder, prepare final design plans, acquire right of way and obtain environmental agency permits, officials said.