Proposed new bridge to Outer Banks among projects delayed by NCDOT money crunch

Rendering of the bridge on the mainland side of the Mid-Currituck Bridge. [NCDOT image]

The proposed toll bridge that would connect mainland Currituck County with Corolla is among a list of new projects that have been delayed by the N.C. Department of Transportation due to declining revenues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a highway department news release on Tuesday, the NCDOT is now facing a $300 million budget shortfall due to decreases in travel in North Carolina that have cut the amount of motor fuel and highway use taxes collected, and fees brought in by the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles.

A 4.7-mile-long, two-lane toll bridge would run from the Narrow Shore neighborhood north of Aydlett on the Currituck mainland, to an area south of Whalehead Bay and Great Ocean Pond near the Corolla Bay neighborhood.

To connect the main span to U.S. 158 south of Coinjock, a smaller bridge would be built through Maple Swamp. The total price tag of the project has been estimated by NCDOT and N.C. Turnpike Authority at around $360 million.

A combination of local opponents and environmental organizations filed a federal lawsuit one year ago to block construction of the bridge, which was slated to begin by the fall of 2021.

Roughly 50 major projects statewide scheduled to start in the next 12 months are being delayed.

Those include repaving and widening of U.S. 17 in Camden County to bring it to interstate standards for the future I-87, and widening the last remaining two-lane stretch of U.S. 17 between Williamston and Washington.

Projects that will continue moving forward are funded by GARVEE bonds, BUILD NC bonds and federal grants. That includes a city-wide traffic signal control system for Elizabeth City.

NCDOT said the changes do not affect construction projects already underway or that have already been awarded.

The department also announced other steps to cut expenditures, including:

  • Allowing only mission critical purchases
  • Laying off temporary and embedded consultants
  • Suspending or decreasing many programs and services
  • Hiring freeze (except for positions that impact public safety)

Plans are also under development for potential furloughs and a reduction in workforce. Those plans are not yet complete and no decision has been made at this time to enact them, the highway department said.

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