Groups file lawsuit over approval of North Carolina bridge

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A new bridge proposed for North Carolina’s barrier islands is being challenged by local residents, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.

A lawsuit challenging state and federal approval of the Mid Currituck Bridge was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Raleigh by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

It says the $500 million project would lead to growth in undisturbed areas along the northern Outer Banks. The center’s attorney says the Federal Highway Administration and the North Carolina Department of Transportation have failed to consider less damaging and less expensive alternatives.

The groups also claim that NCDOT has shut the public out of the decision-making process. They say there has been no public analysis of the bridge and no opportunity for the public to weigh in on options since 2012.

“We are disappointed that NCDOT is pushing forward with this project,” Tim Gestwicki of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation said in the news release. “This unnecessary bridge would devastate one of the most important areas for migratory wildfowl impairing the ability of hunters and anglers to enjoy this unique area.”

State officials said in March that the Federal Highway Administration had granted its record of decision for the 4.7-mile (7.5 kilometer), two-lane toll bridge. It would connect the community of Aydlett on the mainland and Corolla on the northeastern Outer Banks. The project includes a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) long bridge across the Maple Swamp, and would provide another evacuation route during hurricanes.

Jen Symonds, founder of the group NoMCB, said the bridge would only be used for 13 weekends a year during peak vacation time. She said “$500 million is just too much to spend on vacation traffic when there are so many other needed transportation projects in coastal North Carolina, and so many alternative solutions to deal with the traffic.”

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