NCDOT has released a draft of the new 10-year State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), and requested intersection improvements at three Emerald Isle intersections are included. The NC 58 / Bogue Inlet Drive intersection is again included in the new plan, with construction targeted for 2025. The NC 58 / Coast Guard Road intersection is included, with construction targeted for 2027. The NC 58 / Loon Drive (Emerald Plantation) intersection is also included, with construction targeted for 2028. The NC 58 / Mangrove Drive intersection is not included in the draft plan, but there is still a chance that that intersection will also be added to the final 2020-2029 STIP later this year.
Inclusion in the STIP is the critical first step in securing State funding for future NC 58 intersection improvements, in whatever form they may ultimately take. Without inclusion in the STIP, no improvements of any kind are likely to proceed in the future. Although the 3 intersections are identified in the draft STIP as either mini-roundabout or roundabout improvements, NCDOT will perform significant additional analysis, consult with the Town, consult with nearby business owners, and solicit additional public input in the coming years before finalizing any specific plans for these intersections. In the end, the actual improvements may be roundabouts, traffic signal and/or lane improvements, or perhaps no improvements at all, however, it is critical for these projects to be included in the STIP in order to have any chance at all for future NC 58 improvements.
It is important to note that the vast majority of people in Emerald Isle are opposed to the widening of the NC 58 bridge and NC 58 because it is believed this will drastically change the character of the Town and negatively impact the Town's small-town atmosphere. If one accepts this position, yet still wants to improve traffic flow into and out of Emerald Isle, the only remaining options are small, incremental intersection improvements. It is obvious that the 4 signalized intersections are the primary factors causing traffic congestion, and the projects included in the draft STIP seek helpful, incremental improvements at these locations. There are likely no "magic bullet" solutions to the Town's traffic congestion issues during peak periods, and the Town has consistently worked to identify any helpful improvements to at least promote incremental improvement in traffic flow through Emerald Isle.
One other option that is often suggested is the potential for a 3rd bridge to the mainland in the middle of Bogue Banks. The construction of a 3rd bridge would likely be a significant enhancement for Emerald Isle, however, this project is not currently under consideration by NCDOT or any local government in Carteret County. It is also unlikely that such a project would ever be constructed in many of our lifetimes due to significant cost, environmental hurdles, and local political issues in other municipalities.