State News

Officials plan public-private toll across Currituck Sound

Posted April 30, 2009 8:35 a.m. EDT
Updated April 30, 2009 5:54 p.m. EDT

— 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."