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Environmentalists Challenge Outer Banks Toll Bridge; Currituck Commissioners Push Back

mid-currituck bridge

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit challenging plans for a toll bridge on the Outer Banks.

The complaint filed Tuesday from the Southern Enviornmental Law Center questions state and federal approval of the Mid-Currituck Bridge.

It claims the Federal Highway Administration and the North Carolina Department of Transportation did not consider less damaging and less expensive alternatives for the roughly six-mile bridge that would go over sensitive wetlands in the Currituck Sound.

"It’s hard to square [Gov. Roy Cooper'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," said attorney Kym Hunter, who represents the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and local residents who oppose the bridge.

Cooper signed an executive order last year that calls for the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% in the next six years.

Credit Creative Commons / NC Wetlands/
NC Wetlands/
View of the sound side of the Currituck Banks Reserve in Corolla, N.C.

The Currituck County Board of Commissioners released a statement Thursday reaffirming its support for the bridge.

"Currituck County has long been a champion for wildlife and the environment," the statement reads. "Currituck has received awards from the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, North Carolina Coastal Federation, and the Albemarle Resource Conservation and Development Council."

Commissioners have said the $500 million bridge would cut travel times, provide better hurricane evacation routes and support tourism. The Mid-Currituck Bridge would run from the mainland to Corolla, where the nearest bridge is currently more than 20 miles away.

Opponents have questioned whether that money would be better spent on widening the Outer Banks' Highway 12, and redesigning the interchange between NC-12 and US-158 in Kitty Hawk.

The bridge got a favorable Record of Decision from the Federal Highway Administration in March. That approval is one of many the project needs to start construction.

NCDOT says tolls will cover the majority of costs for the Mid-Currituck Bridge, but the state will still owe about $173 million. The agecny has not yet determined how much it will cost drivers to cross the bridge.

Will Michaels is WUNC's Weekend Host and Reporter.
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