Bridge PPP would mark North Carolina first

A projected $500m bridge in North Carolina – dubbed the Mid-Currituck Bridge – is one step closer to being green lighted and could become the Tar Heel state’s first ever transportation public-private partnership.

A long-awaited decision on whether to involve the private sector in the construction and funding of a seven-mile, $500 million plus bridge across the Currituck Sound inlet, in North Carolina, is incumbent on an environmental impact statement now under review by the federal government.

The so-called Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, on the proposed Mid-Currituck Bridge has now been completed. Reid Simons, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), called the development a “milestone” and added the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is expected to finish reviewing the document by March.

Simons explained ACS Dragados USA, the Florida-based affiliate of Spain’s ACS Group, is evaluating if the bridge should be built using municipal financing or via a public-private partnership (PPP). David Joyner, executive director of the North Carolina Turnpike Authority (NPTA), a unit of NCDOT, selected ACS as its private partner from a shortlist in 2009.

Simons said ACS has a predevelopment agreement with NCDOT. Joyner pointed out that, should the bridge come about as a PPP, ACS will handle the project. Simons confirmed a PPP would mark the first time North Carolina has used private capital to fund a public transportation project.

Joyner, the charter member of the turnpike authority, said the Mid-Currituck Bridge would reinforce Corolla Beach as a “premier tourist spot,” helping reduce the commute to the beach by an hour or more during “peak travel”. The completed bridge – a toll bridge – will connect to the beach from mainland US Route 158.

ACS, which set up a bureau in Raleigh, North Carolina, to work with NCDOT, is conducting a cost analysis, factoring how much revenue would be generated, explained Simons. She added ACS has also undertaken an engineering review of the project.

Pending FHA approval, Simons said the Mid-Currituck Bridge was slated to begin construction in the fourth quarter of the year and could be completed in 2017. The cost of the project has been listed from $500 million to $660 million, according to NCDOT.

Joyner recounted a bridge across the Currituck Sound has been a long-running plan, “but the capital has just never been there”.