Forty-four years in the making, Mid-Currituck Bridge gets federal approval

Rendering, Mid-Currituck Bridge

More than 40 years after state and local officials identified the need for a bridge connecting the northern Outer Banks to the mainland, the project finally got a green light from the feds.

The Mid-Currituck Bridge, a seven-mile span over Currituck Sound, received approval Friday from the Federal Highway Administration, paving the way for construction plans to begin.

The bridge will connect the Currituck community of Aydlett on the mainland to Corolla on the Outer Banks, a 40-mile shortcut to the popular northern beach communities.

Travelers coming in from the north currently have to drive south over the Wright Memorial Bridge on U.S. 158 and back north to Corolla through Duck, causing “epic” traffic during peak season, Currituck officials say.

The new bridge will also help ease hurricane evacuation on the storm-prone Outer Banks.

“This is a major milestone in delivering this project, that the local communities requested,” said Chris Werner, Acting Executive Director of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority. “The Mid-Currituck Bridge will provide much-needed transportation improvements for hurricane evacuation clearance times and connectivity to the Outer Banks.”

State and local officials first identified a need for an east-west crossing over Currituck Sound in 1975 and began formal planning in 1995.

The state Turnpike Authority became involved in 2006 when local leaders considered funding the project with toll revenue.

One of the major considerations in building the bridge was boosting hurricane evacuation clearance times, which often fail to meet the state designated standards of 18 hours, the N.C. Department of Transportation said in a news release.

The shortcut provided by the bridge is estimated to provide a travel time savings of about two hours one-way during peak travel periods.

The 7-mile toll project includes a two-lane bridge that spans the Currituck Sound and connects the Currituck County mainland to the Outer Banks. It also includes a second two-lane bridge that spans Maple Swamp on the Currituck County mainland, connecting Aydlett to U.S. 158.

The project has an overall estimated cost of $440 million. A portion of the funding is expected to come from bonds that will be paid back with toll revenue.

The remainder of the funding is expected to come from a combination of state and federal transportation tax revenues.

The FHA’s “Record of Decision” allows NCDOT and the Turnpike Authority to move the project forward and begin acquiring land needed for the project’s right of way, to obtain environmental permits and advance construction plans.

The project also includes improvements to N.C. 12 and minor enhancements to the Wright Memorial Bridge, aiding in hurricane evacuation.