|Ocracoke Update: Life without a highway
February 15, 2008
The end is now in sight
By JAMIE TUNNELL
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warmer days, the lull of the off-season, and an itch for the on-season
have been the cause of the overactive imaginations and loose tongues
last week. Rumors floated through Hatteras and Ocracoke islands that
the bridges of Highway 12 on Ocracoke would be open today. That would
have been almost a month before the scheduled deadline of March 15.
“That’s just a rumor,” said Pablo Hernandez, N.C.
Department of Transportation project manager for the bridge replacement
and beach detour.
“Overall, the progress and quality of work to date is
outstanding. To remove six bridges and replace with concrete
structures, along with a twin culvert, in approximately six weeks is a
As reported on the Web site, www.ocracokebridges.com, the deck slabs
and concrete barrier rails are installed and have been grouted in place
(ready for traffic) at five bridges -- Bridge 49, Bridge 46, Bridge 42,
Bridge 39, and Bridge 31. The culvert pipes have been installed at the
sixth bridge site from the Pony Pens.
At one point of the process, the contractor, Carolina Bridge, put up a
notice at the Post Office to keep people up to date and to ask for help
rallying for delivery of the pre-cast concrete. Despite the best
intention of the contractor to help along his progress, the notice
started a ripple of panic that there could be significant delays.
Several on the local level agreed that it was poor judgment to post.
Otherwise, there has been great communication between all the parties
In fact, the pre-cast concrete has all arrived and this very unique
project with known and unpredictable issues, unpredictable weather, and
all sorts of questions marks is now in the final stages.
are cleaning up and hauling away some of the old stuff,” said
Hernandez. “On Tuesday, we were waiting for 10 loads of
pre-cast concrete, and it never showed. We used that time to get
other projects done. We’re never just sitting around and waiting.
It turned out that the concrete plant was down for maintenance.”
Jarvis Williams, who is under contract to DOT to tow vehicles that get
stuck on the beach and is now known locally as the “tow
guy,” was told he may be released by the first of March.
“I had the slowest day today I’ve had,” Williams said
on Thursday, Feb. 14. By 5 p.m. that day he had not received any
calls for a tow. “I’ve hauled some of the two-wheel
vehicles on my trailer, but no calls for a tow.”
estimated that he had towed about 160 vehicles to date during the beach
detour project. He commented on the cooperation of the community and
the fast pace of the contracting crews.
Next on the list is to smooth out the transition between the road and
the new bridges. There’s about 1/8 inch difference and RPC
Contracting of Kitty Hawk will be on the site Feb. 18 to start.
“This work will entail providing a safer and smoother transition
with asphalt from the existing roadway to the new bridges and culvert
and shaping the roadway shoulder and slopes,” said Hernandez.
“Currently the gravel transitions to the bridges are not ideal
from a traffic safety standpoint. Despite the rumors, there are
no plans to open Highway 12 with a lane closure(s) while this work
takes place. This work will not be effective working in a lane
closure. This roadway/asphalt work is anticipated to take a few
weeks, weather depending.”
Two crews remain on the project while two crews left the project last week.
“All along our goal has been to replace the aging structures as
quickly and safely as possible with quality in mind and to reconnect
Ocracoke village to the rest of the Outer Banks,” Hernandez added.