A group of residents and visitors is asking the new North Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary to consider alternatives to building a proposed two-lane bridge between the Currituck mainland and the Outer Banks. The project has long been in the research and planning phase as a means to alleviate tourist traffic and offer another emergency evacuation route.
The Mid-Currituck Bridge project would cost about $440 million, according to the NCDOT's web page, with the agency committing $173 million. The page said tolls would pay for the rest of the project.
But the No Mid-Currituck Bridge group sent Secretary Jim Trogdon a letter, asking that NCDOT pursue alternatives to the bridge, estimating that the bridge could actually cost up to $678 million. The letter said tolls could cost island visitors, residents and workers a prohibitive $50 each way.
Barbara Marzetti, a co-founder of the NoMCB group, signed the letter to NCDOT.
"I have a business here in Corolla, so I want the tourists to come," she said. "But why build this extremely expensive bridge on the backs of the taxpayers that's really only used 14 weekends a year?"
Marzetti said the bridge would simply create another bottleneck on either end. She said the promise of traffic alleviation would draw an unsupportable amount of visitors, especially "day trippers" who'd use local resources without investing in local businesses. Marzetti anticipates heavy development would follow.
NoMCB's letter also expressed concern that the bridge and subsequent development would harm wildlife and marine habitat in the Currituck Sound, citing an independent environmental impact statement commissioned by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
Aydlett resident Jennifer Symonds is another co-founder of No Mid-Currituck Bridge and signatory of the letter. Symonds said the bridge project would ruin the area's quiet, natural atmosphere, which makes the area special.
"It gives people a reason to come here. It's remote, that's why people like to come here," Symonds said, adding that the area couldn't handle the influx of day-trippers and developers.
"We just don't have the infrastructure in place," she said. "There's no county water, there's no sewer above the road in Corolla and the wild horses are up there, and that's a huge tourism draw. To me, you don't want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg."
NoMCB and SELC both advocate that NCDOT instead invest in improvements to existing roadways, improving interchanges and elevating pedestrian crossings. They say this would prevent unsustainable development and not necessarily attract an influx of new visitors looking for a quick weekend away.
NCDOT Communications Director Robert Broome says he appreciates all public feedback. The project is still in environmental study phase, but NCDOT expect to finalize a record of decision on the project this spring.