Editor's note: This article was last updated Jan. 18 at 5:56 p.m.

MOREHEAD CITY — County officials have requested the N.C. Department of Transportation conduct an express design study for a potential third bridge to Bogue Banks, but such a project must go through the state’s rigorous prioritization process before it can become reality.

The proposed bridge project was discussed during the county transportation committee’s meeting Wednesday at the Crystal Coast Civic Center on Arendell Street. It was part of an ongoing discussion of which projects the county wants to submit for consideration in NCDOT’s 2023-32 State Transportation Improvement Program, a 10-year plan that identifies funding and construction schedules for transportation projects throughout the state.

County Economic Development Director Don Kirkman said NCDOT has confirmed the study request was received and placed in a queue, but due to an ongoing budget shortfall within the transportation department, there is no timeline for completion at this point.

“Because of some of the issues facing the department and the large volume of requests that they have received, (NCDOT) did not know the timetable for that project beginning,” he said.

NCDOT representative Diane Hampton said an express design study is essentially an abbreviated feasibility study that looks at project costs, environmental effects and anticipated traffic impacts. She said it is not as detailed as a full feasibility study, but it can usually be completed in less than a year and gives a good overview of the scope of a project.

“Getting it in the queue for a study is the first step,” she said.

One advantage of conducting an express design study, Ms. Hampton said, is it can give officials an idea of the benefit to cost ratio for a project. She said that is important for helping projects be more competitive in the STIP prioritization process, which uses data-driven methods to score projects and determine which will receive funding.

The window to submit projects for data scoring as part of the 2023-32 STIP is open now until the end of April.

Ms. Hampton said just because NCDOT has agreed to conduct an express design study for the bridge doesn’t mean the project is guaranteed funding, as it must go through the intensive scoring and local input point allocation process. However, she said it may be wise to submit the project for scoring this year, even while the design study is ongoing, because the study’s findings can be incorporated into the project score down the line.

“The study can happen parallel to project scoring,” she said. “…Even if you’re not sure about the project, you can submit it and get a score and if you decide you’re serious about it later, we can go from there.”

Ms. Hampton said cost is one of the biggest factors NCDOT considers when scoring projects, and a new bridge would be massively expensive. To help defray costs and make the project more competitive, the transportation committee has discussed the possibility of making it a toll bridge.  

One possible design for the proposed span is a three-lane bridge with one travel lane in each direction for vehicles and the third lane for cyclists and pedestrians. Ms. Hampton said the advantage of that design is the pedestrian lane could be converted to an additional travel lane for vehicles during hurricane evacuations.

“That would really help with the emergency evacuations,” she said. “Also, a third bridge would really help with the congestion on the existing two bridges on those ends of the island. So (there’s) a lot of good things that could happen with that, although we do know how expensive a bridge is.”

The county has floated the idea of a third bridge to Bogue Banks for years, but has never put forward a formal project. The bridge would likely originate on the mainland near Hibbs Road, span Bogue Sound and terminate somewhere in the middle of island, possibly in Pine Knoll Shores or Indian Beach.

The transportation committee has expressed tentative support for a third bridge, depending on what the study finds, but most members agree something eventually needs to happen to relieve increasing congestion on Bogue Banks. The committee also discussed possibly widening Highway 58 on the island, but Ms. Hampton said that is unlikely as there is not much room to expand the roadway.

Officials with Pine Knoll Shores and Indian Beach are not so sure about the idea of a new bridge as it would likely have significant impacts to their towns. Private property owners in the bridge right-of-way would have to give up their land to make way for the construction.

“When you’re looking at this study on the bridge, please consider all the impacts and all the alternatives,” Pine Knoll Shores Manager Brian Kramer said. “…Just letting you know, it’s a concern of the middle of the island … we’re kind of pulling at our collars (thinking) about impacts to private property.”

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

MOREHEAD CITY — County officials have requested the N.C. Department of Transportation conduct an express design study for a potential third bridge to Bogue Banks.

The proposed bridge project was discussed during the county transportation committee’s meeting Wednesday at the Crystal Coast Civic Center on Arendell Street.

County Economic Development Director Don Kirkman said NCDOT has confirmed the study request was received and placed in the queue, but due to an ongoing budget shortfall within the transportation department, there is no timeline for completion at this point.

NCDOT representative Diane Hampton said an express design study is essentially an abbreviated feasibility study that looks at project costs, environmental effects and traffic impacts. She said it is not as detailed as a full feasibility study, but it can usually be completed in less than a year.

The advantage of conducting an express design study, Ms. Hampton said, is it can give officials an idea of the benefit-to-cost ratio for a project. She said that is important for helping projects be more competitive in the state’s prioritization process that identifies which projects to fund and schedule for construction.

The county has floated the idea of a third bridge to Bogue Banks for years, but has never put forward a formal project. Ms. Hampton said a third Bogue Banks bridge, which would likely originate near Hibbs Road on the mainland and terminate somewhere in the middle of the island, possibly in Pine Knoll Shores or Indian Beach, would relieve congestion on the island’s two existing bridges and help with hurricane evacuations.

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

As a privately owned web site, we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that contain spam, advertising, vulgarity, threats of violence, racism, anti-Semitism, or personal/abusive/condescending attacks on other users or goading them. The same applies to trolling, the use of multiple aliases, or just generally being a jerk. Enforcement of this policy is at the sole discretion of the site administrators and repeat offenders may be blocked or permanently banned without warning.