A combination of local opponents and environmental organizations filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to block construction of a toll bridge over Currituck Sound between the mainland and Corolla.
“$500 million is just too much to spend on vacation traffic when there are so many other needed transportation projects in coastal North Carolina, and so many alternative solutions to deal with the traffic,” said Jen Symonds, an Aydlett resident and founder of the No Mid-Currituck Bridge group.
NoMCB and the North Carolina Wildlife Federation are the plaintiffs in the suit, and are being represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
“It is unfortunate that Governor (Roy) Cooper’s NCDOT continues to press forward with this wasteful, destructive bridge” said SELC Senior Attorney Kym Hunter.
“It’s hard to square the governor’s executive order on climate change with this bridge that will encourage more development in a part of North Carolina vulnerable to rising sea levels and coastal flooding,” Hunter said.
“Our state would be better served directing those resources to road improvements needed to improve resiliency in eastern North Carolina,” Hunter added.
“We are disappointed that NCDOT is pushing forward with this project,” noted Tim Gestwicki with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “This unnecessary bridge would devastate one of the most important areas for migratory wildfowl impairing the ability of hunters and anglers to enjoy this unique area.”
The groups filed their lawsuit under the National Environmental Policy Act, arguing state and federal transportation agencies have failed to consider less damaging and less expensive alternatives.
Those include widening N.C. 12 through Southern Shores and Duck to three lanes, traffic circles instead of stop lights, and building a flyover interchange with U.S. 158 in Kitty Hawk.
They also claim in the suit there has been no public input on the proposal since 2012, that the Federal Highway Administration’s approval of the project this winter was based on data that is more than seven years old, and that tolls would have to top $50 during peak season to pay for the project.
While public statements by the plantiffs have claimed the cost will be above $500 million, and the lawsuit claims $600 million, the N.C. Department of Transportation has estimated the cost for the total project at closer to $440 million.
The plaintiffs plan to hold a public meeting to talk about their suit on May 2 at 6 p.m. at the Corolla Library.