Mid-Currituck Bridge project moving forward, slowly

Published 11:00 am Friday, May 18, 2018

In a project spanning decades, work continues on plans for the Mid-Currituck bridge project linking the mainland to the northern Outer Banks.

Jerry Jennings, the NC Department of Transportation’s regional engineer, recently reported to the Currituck Board of Commissioners the status of the bridge, along with several other road projects recently completed or in the works.

Jennings told the board that the evaluation of an environmental impact statement for the mid-county bridge is nearly complete and a record of decision formalizing future plans is expected this summer.

As a NC Turnpike Authority project, all the agencies involved will review that evaluation report and make a plan for financing to determine the type of construction contract involved. Jennings said he expects a meeting with the county and stakeholders to take place this summer to go over the next steps. The bridge project is estimated to cost more than $489 million.

Jennings also gave an update on another project that has been a topic for years, stabilization of the Knotts Island Causeway, a two-lane road under continual stress from water and marsh. Jennings said that the General Assembly created the “High Impact/Low Cost” program last year that has its own separate funding, to address projects that are too big for DOT’s maintenance budget but too small to be in the state’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

The contract to stabilize the shoreline along the causeway is expected to be let later this year, at an estimated cost of $440,000.

Right-of-way acquisition is expected to begin next year, construction in 2021, for the $24 million modernization, widening and rehabilitation of South Mills Road and Old Swamp Road (extending into Camden County), that will upgrade the connection between NC 168 and US 17.

On a related note, Jennings reported that the feasibility study for a future I-87 between North Carolina and Virginia is almost complete, and will include, on a request from Currituck, an alternate that would make NC 168 part of that connection, instead of US 17.

I-87 is in the TIP, which is a 10-year plan that is updated every two years and also includes upgrading US 17 from Elizabeth City to the state line to freeway status. That project is currently slated for right-of-way acquisition in 2025 and construction in 2027.

Projects identified for the first five years of the TIP typically have funding identified, but projects in the second five years are subject to being reprioritized when the TIP is updated.

Also looking down the road, right-of-way acquisition is planned for 2023, construction to begin in 2025, on the $120 million widening of Short Cut Road (US 158) from Barco through Camden, to create a four-lane divided highway.

As for road maintenance over the next five years, Currituck is scheduled for preservation projects, such as crack sealing, of 49 road miles, plus resurfacing and other maintenance of 38 miles for a total just under $15 million.

Some drainage ditch work and pipe replacement this year will be done at a cost of $1.2 million, and that same amount will be set aside for unplanned maintenance as needed. Jennings commented that part of the maintenance plan is to be more proactive and clear those ditches before there is a problem.

The contract for resurfacing NC 12 is in the works, and something that causes phones to ring, mowing, is also getting attention. Jennings explained that Currituck had five mowing cycles the past several years, but that has been increased this year to six mowing cycles on all routes. In addition, crews are picking up litter before the mowers come through on the major routes, something not done previously.

Jennings also reported that there have been some changes within DOT in the last couple of years that have given more control of projects to the local offices that know the roads in their division, instead of projects being controlled from Raleigh.