It’s been a long time since we’ve mentioned the possible new OBX bridge – i.e. the Mid-Currituck Bridge. In fact, the last post we made on the subject was in February 2011.
I’d love to say that we’ve been slacking and not reporting all the great progress the bridge has made in about a year and a half, but I’m not one to slack. The bridge has been stuck in abyss that is our political system, and unfortunately has made little, if any, progress.
This slow pace is nothing new. The bridge has been on the drawing board for years, and here we are still talking about it. Ask an OBX local about the Mid-Currituck bridge, and my guess is you’ll get a response similar to “we’ll believe it when we see it.”
The proposed bridge would connect mainland Currituck to Corolla and would save countless hours of travel for Outer Banks vacationers headed to Corolla, plus the added safety benefit of a quicker and easier evacuation route if/when hurricanes threaten the OBX.
There are arguments for and against the proposed bridge, and they are all valid, but in the end, the benefits seem to outweigh the drawbacks. However, let’s skip the debate. Let’s focus on where we are today. The debates are meaningless when the idea is stuck in the muddy world of politicians.
As planned, the bridge was supposed to be supported by a mix of public and private funds, and it would be a toll road that could repay borrowed money. However, given the economic climate over the past few years, and a changing political spectrum in the NC government, the public portion of that public/private split has been put on hold.
Viewed from a realistic economic standpoint, this hold on funds is not very surprising. Budgets are tight, and the OBX has survived without this bridge for a long time. Is it a necessity? Probably not.
But the Corolla vacationers that converge on the OBX and drive much needed tourism dollars to the state sure would love it. Tough balancing act, and there are motivated people that want to see it happen sooner than later.
Perhaps too motivated.
North Carolina politicians, including Governor Perdue are under fire this week for some actions taken to drive the flow of funds towards the bogged down bridge proposal.
Here’s the article from the News & Observer that broke the story, and here’s a rundown of the political storm (hurricane? too easy ) Governor Perdue and the Mid-Currituck bridge are caught in…
- Gov. Bev Perdue’s staff drafted a pair of false letters last week in an effort to start the flow of money for two major toll road projects that transportation officials say won’t be ready for state funding until 2014.
- The documents indicate that Perdue herself was involved in the issue.
- The letters were rushed to legislators Thursday morning over the signature of Jim Trogdon, chief operating officer of the state Department of Transportation. Trogdon disavowed the letters and retracted them Thursday afternoon.
- Funds are needed in this budget cycle” for the bridge and the parkway, according to a key line in both erroneous letters. That sentence had been inserted into letters Trogdon drafted with the intent to send the opposite message – that DOT didn’t need the money.
- Two high-level Perdue staff members had added the new language, according to officials from DOT and Perdue’s office.
- When Trogdon learned about the new language from his secretary Thursday, he sent a message to her from his mobile phone. ”Major problem with the sentence,” he wrote. “It is not true.”
Thanks to the Beaufort Observer for the great recap.
So, where does this leave the possible new Outer Banks bridge headed to Corolla? Great question.
I’m not sure anyone can offer a solid answer, but from what I can glean from this crazy political ordeal is that the NC DOT is not prepared to bring funding forward until at least fiscal year 2014 (which starts July 2013). But given the nature of our political system, I’m not sure that I would count on that happening according to the current timeline.
As we’ve seen, a lot can change in a year or two.