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WFAE reporter David Boraks explores how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Outer Banks officials urge court to OK Mid-Currituck Bridge project

013122 Mid-Currituck Bridge map.jpg
NCDOT
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The proposed $500 million Mid-Currituck Bridge would link the mainland with the Outer Banks near Corolla.

Officials on North Carolina's northern Outer Banks are urging a federal appeals court to uphold approval of a proposed half-billion-dollar bridge they say would improve traffic flow to and from the mainland.

The town of Southern Shores is asking a federal appeals court to affirm a lower court ruling last December that allowed the Mid-Currituck Bridge project to proceed.

The seven-mile bridge would cross the Maple Swamp and run from the mainland to Corolla. It would offer Outer Banks tourists a second route on and off the barrier islands. The current route in the area is the Wright Memorial Bridge across Currituck Sound to Kitty Hawk.

Southern Shores filed a friend of the court brief in support of the bridge on June 13. It was joined by the Town of Duck, Currituck County, the Dare County Tourism Board, Duck Community and Business Alliance and the Currituck Chamber of Commerce.

The filing notes that traffic has increased in the area, especially on weekends during the tourist season. The town notes that growing traffic and congestion along with concerns about hurricane evacuation times were the original justification for the project.

"All of the (groups) favor construction of the Mid-Currituck Bridge over other proposed alternatives, such as substantially widening US158 and NC12," the filing says.

In a press release, the town said: "The additional wear and tear by thousands of vehicles every summer weekend creates a financial burden for the town. The Mid-Currituck Bridge will provide much-needed relief on Southern Shores streets by providing a second means of access to the northern Outer Banks and will also provide a much-needed evacuation route during storm events."

A lower court in December threw out a lawsuit by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and residents opposed to the project, including No Mid-Currituck Bridge-Concerned Citizens and Visitors Opposed to the Mid-Currituck Bridge.

Opponents say it's not needed and that approval was based on outdated environmental information. Opponents argue that the bridge area will eventually be underwater because of sea-level rise and storm-related flooding.

The project is not funded and the NC Department of Transportation has not set a start date.

More about the Mid-Currituck Bridge project at NCDOT.gov.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.