Many people don’t know that the road to Corolla was not paved until 1984. But even before the concrete was poured, the idea of a bridge connecting mainland Currituck County to the Currituck Outer Banks was supported by local government officials. For many years the Mid Currituck Bridge was seen as the key to the Corolla real estate market after first being proposed in 1978. However, the on again off again project has not stopped the Northern Outer Banks area from becoming a premier vacation destination and investment property location. But if the bridge building comes to fruition, it could enhance the lives of residents, vacationers, and property owners alike.
Projections for 2019
There appears to be a light at the end of the, well, bridge, with inclusion of the project in the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s State Transportation Improvement Program this June. The STIP Program outlines approved projects for the next 10 years and construction is allegedly set to begin in 2019. The bridge is designed to be a two lane toll bridge beginning in Aydlett on the mainland and entering Corolla between the Timbuk II Shopping Center and Corolla Village.
The $411 million dollar project does have its detractors.
Anyone who has visited the Outer Banks in the summer knows the first problem that the bridge would address…Traffic! 70,000 people enter and leave the Outer Banks on a typical summer weekend. That’s roughly the size of a small city leaving and a small city arriving every weekend. Corolla itself receives about 8 million visitors per year. The bridge would allow visitors to Corolla and the northern beaches to bypass the congested areas of Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores, and Duck, saving roughly 50 miles of driving and potentially countless hours of sitting in traffic.
Another area of improvement would be for emergency services. A medical emergency occurring during peak travel times puts lives in greater danger by having to navigate thousands of vehicles to reach help. The Mid Currituck Bridge would provide roughly an hour savings at least for medical transport just to reach proper facilities.
Access to other services like education would be greatly improved by the construction of the Mid Currituck Bridge, as well. Currently, children living on the Currituck Outer Banks have to endure a 90-minute bus ride to and from school every day, or they have to navigate the Currituck Sound by boat to Knott’s Island and then take a ferry to the mainland while on their school bus. This commute is routinely affected by the condition of the sound as well with the waters being unnavigable at times.
Finally, there is the question of safety of the entire region in the face of a natural disaster. Emergency management studies conducted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation found that a mandatory evacuation of the Currituck Outer Banks during the summer under would take approximately 32 hours under current conditions. That is well north of the 18 hour timeframe for evacuation of an area suggested by the state. The Mid Currituck Bridge would drastically reduce the amount of time needed for a mandatory evacuation and provide state officials with greater flexibility in dealing with a natural disaster.
The effects of the bridge on the environment and increased traffic in the northern beaches are the primary arguments to proponents of the bridge, although some environmental studies have found that most environmental impact will be minor or temporary during construction. Only time will tell whether this bridge becomes a reality or continues to remain a matter of debate.