State News

Officials plan public-private toll across Currituck Sound

Posted April 30, 2009

— State transportation officials have signed a preliminary agreement with private companies to build and finance a toll bridge across Currituck Sound on the North Carolina coast.

If the plan works out, the $650 million, seven-mile bridge across the sound to the northern Outer Banks could be completed as early as 2013, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Thursday.

The state Turnpike Authority will work with ACS Infrastructure Development and Dragados USA to determine if the Mid-Currituck Bridge would be financially feasible. The companies are subsidiaries of Spanish firms.

Projected tolls on what would be the state's longest bridge would be $10 to $15 for a one-way crossing to the upscale beaches of Duck and Corolla.

"The private sector knows how to do these things more efficiently and save money and save time," said David Joyner, the turnpike authority's executive director. "It's a proven model in other countries. This is a way to get our toe in the water to explore this concept."

On a separate project, Joyner's agency tried to sell bonds for a proposed $1 billion toll road south of Research Triangle Park, but couldn't find lenders after the Wall Street decline.

The turnpike authority would be responsible for overseeing the project and the state and private firms would have to agree on tolls and other details.

Reaction to the bridge was positive from Currituck commission chairman Owen Etheridge, who said the bridge would ease summer traffic and bring the county together.

Beachgoers can spend thousands for a weekly rental at the beaches, and the new bridge could cut their drive by and hour or more because of traffic jams on the existing road to the northern Outer Banks.

"Coming in through that traffic can be a real daunting task, and I think tourists I've talked to would pay an extra $10 to get to their home here an extra hour earlier," said Adam Norko, marketing director for Seaside Vacations in Corolla."

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  • pbjbeach Apr 30, 2009

    I SURELY HOPE THAT THIS NEW BRIDGE RIDES BETTER THAN THE CURRENT BRIDGE THAT CROSSES THE CURITUCK SOUND BETWEEN HARBINGER & DUCK I AM SPEAKING ABOUT THE NEWEST OF THE TWO LANES THAT WERE MOST RECENTLY CONSTRUCTED. THIS BRIDGE WILL NEARLY BOUNCE YOU OUT OF YOUR SEAT AS YOU ARE CROSSING IT AT THE POSTED SPEED ALONG WITH THE FACT . WHY WAS IT NECESSARY FOR A BRAND NEW BRIDGE LIKE THE NEW VIRGINIA DARE BRIDGE TO HAVE TO HAD EXTRA TAXPAYERS MONEY SPENT FOR THIS BRIDGE TO HAVE TO HAVE GRINDING DONE ON IT'S DECK FROM OF BOTH E.B.L. AN W.B.L. FOR THE FULL LENGTH OF IT'S 5.5 MILES JUST IN ORDER TO TRY AN ACHEIVE A SUITABLE RIDING SURFACE

  • terriersrfun Apr 30, 2009

    It would be a better deal if the bridge building company was from the USA.

  • Bendal1 Apr 30, 2009

    nccarguy,

    I agree; this is one of the rare projects where a toll may work. The project was never worth building only for hurricane evacuation, and that was the only reason DOT could come up with to justify it to the permitting agencies. Reducing travel time wasn't good enough, so it was never going to be built the usual way. A toll on this bridge only impacts those wanting to use it and no one else; it will be designed and built to DOT standards and if the owners can't generate enough revenue with a toll, they'll either raise the toll or end up selling it to DOT at a loss.

    Like I said, though, I doubt many NC residents will ever drive on this bridge. I certainly won't; there's plenty other ways to get to the Outer Banks and that area is one I'll never need to travel to.

  • pbjbeach Apr 30, 2009

    If the toll commission ends up not acheiving the amount of funding for this project an making money as they anticpate they will just turn right back around an sell their sc--- up to the taxpayers of this state as that the ncdot will end up taking it off of their hands an bailing out the4 private investors so that they won't have to eat the loss on it thank you

  • ObamaMustGo aka NCcarguy Apr 30, 2009

    bendal1, then you just made a perfect argument for going with this approach! If most North Carolinians won't use this, then why not toll it, and make those that WILL use it pay for it. I'm glad to see this happen!

  • Leonardo Apr 30, 2009

    Hrm....I really don't like the idea of private companies owning toll roads.

    Sure, they would probably be more frugal with the toll money. But lets not forget that private companies exist for one reason...to make as much profit for shareholders as possible. If they can get away with higher tolls, then they'll do it. They don't care one bit how much it costs citizens to use these toll roads....they only care about getting as much money out of you and me as possible. And if they can get away with cutting corners here and there, they'll do that too if it helps their bottom line.

    Sure, government can be inefficient at times, but at least their accountable to the voters, and so they have some incentive to keep taxes low (unless they want to lose their jobs when the next administration comes in). But with private companies, they have NO incentive to keep toll rates low. Their only incentive is to gouge you as much as possible.

  • Bendal1 Apr 30, 2009

    This bridge has been on the state's "to do" list for more than a decade, but cost and environmental concerns always kept pushing it to the back. Once tolls became politically acceptable, though, this project got more support since it mainly serves rich out-of-state tourists wanting to vacation on the Northern Outer Banks.

    Very few NC residents will ever need to travel on this bridge, which is also being pushed as a needed evacuation route off the Outer Banks in the event of a hurricane approaching the region. If rich Virginians want to pay $15 one way to get to their vacation home a little quicker, let them pay up!

  • NCwxguy Apr 30, 2009

    Now they need to do the same for the 'new' Bonner bridge. The rest of NC doesn't need to subsidize tourists reaching the outer banks.

  • ncguy71 Apr 30, 2009

    I'll be taking the other scenic route.

  • horseonthefly Apr 30, 2009

    and YOU thought they created the turnpike authority to finish 540...