options for long-term Highway 12 repair to the public
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
seven weeks of isolation barely behind them, northern Hatteras Island
residents were anxious to learn more about options to permanently fix
two areas of Highway 12 that were torn apart during Hurricane
preferences on how to address storm breached spots in Pea Island
National Wildlife Refuge and Mirlo Beach in northern Rodanthe will be
taken into consideration, but ultimately the chosen long-term solution
will be mostly dictated by constraints in coastal conditions and
means the only possible alternative that may pass muster in the refuge
is a bridge at the same spot where a temporary one spans the inlet torn
through by Irene.
Pea Island, any option that stays in the right of way is preferred, and
in some cases, required,” Jim Trogdon, North Carolina Department of
Transportation Chief Operating Officer, said in telephone interview.
at Mirlo, where damage from sound and ocean tide is still evident, he
said, there are “more options to consider. It’s a more complex site
with a lot of varying perspectives. To me, there’s no alternative that
stands out yet.”
road was reopened on Oct. 10 after NCDOT built the temporary bridge in
Pea Island, filled the breach, and repaved the road near S-Curves.
than 100 people stopped by a NCDOT information workshop at the
Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building on Tuesday, Dec. 6, to study
maps of each proposal and query transportation officials. Residents
have been asked to weigh in on four different long-term alternatives
for each spot that involve bridging, road relocation, beach
nourishment, or a combination of nourishment and bridging.
proposals are part of Phase II of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge
replacement project that was approved last December, but the storm
damage moved up the need to go forward on the second phase, even as
Phase I is still being designed. Construction of the Oregon Inlet
bridge is expected to start by early 2013.
Babin, who lives on the soundside of Mirlo Beach, said that beach
nourishment seems to be the most cost effective and feasible of the
solutions, but she is concerned that “it might not be the most
said that nourishment, although popular with a number of her island
neighbors, is certainly not the consensus fix.
got as many opinions as we do bodies,” she said. “I think the
residents of Rodanthe are worried about their businesses losing
visibility if the bridge bypasses their businesses.”
only would one of the bridge proposals affect commerce, it would also
effectively isolate the community, said Don Babin, Paula’s husband.
kind of gives me the impression that we’re going to be left to fend for
ourselves,” he said. “Once they give up (Highway) 12 in that area,
we’re pretty much dead in the water.”
alternatives for Rodanthe and Mirlo, ranging in cost from $114 million
to $240 million, are:
a bridge within the easement and nourish the beach.
the bridge within the easement but don’t nourish.
a 2.5-mile bridge that extends in Pamlico Sound about 1,000 feet west
of the shoreline and bypasses Mirlo Beach, anchoring just north of
and maintain high dunes north of Mirlo and use beach nourishment,
without building a bridge.
four options, ranging in cost from $97 million to $147 million, are
similar for Pea Island, except they include locating either the road or
a bridge west of the current bridge/road. The biggest difference
between the sites is that Pea Island is regulated by federal
compatibility requirements that would likely preclude any work outside
the state right-of-way.
said that if a concrete bridge is built within the existing right of
way as he expects, it would be about 1- to 1 ½-miles long and about 18-
to 25-feet above the ground level.
only are costs for beach nourishment not yet available, it is unclear,
Trogdon said, whether it would be permitted by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, which manages the beach in Pea Island, or by the
National Park Service, which has jurisdiction of the shoreline off
Trogdon said an even bigger consideration with nourishment is where it
would be functional -- in other words, where it would work.
Mirlo Beach still partially in ruins, the potential need for
acquisition of right-of-way is a factor in the timing of the chosen
alternative, as well as whatever minor shifts in the project design
could be helpful, Trogdon said. For instance, an owner may
not to restore their damaged home if it turns out to be in the path of
said that DOT will hold as many meetings as needed to work with the
community. He said the agency is hoping to have chosen the alternatives
by the end of January.
the option, islanders just want to keep their lifeline to the world
open, said James Charlet, a Salvo resident and the site manager of
Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station.
the highway was repaired, the only access off the island was lengthy
trips on emergency ferries. Charlet said he and other islanders chose
feeling of not being able to leave the island for seven weeks was
really a strange feeling,” he said. “Almost like we were in prison.”
long as a bridge does not cut off access to Chicamacomico, Charlet said
he thinks that bridges make the most sense. Not everyone agrees with
him, but at least people seem to trust that DOT is working with
think all we are saying is, whatever the right answer is, it’s not that
complicated,” he said. “We need it done, and we need it done quickly.”
is accepting public comments on the long-term solution to the problems
on Highway 12 until Jan. 20.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
more information, visit www.ncdot.org/travel/nc12recovery,
or go to the NC12 blog at http://nc12repairs.blogspot.com/.
You can also reach the Project Hotline at 1-866-803-0529.
comment on the Highway 12 alternatives, e-mail Beth Smyre at [email protected]
or call the Project Hotline (number above.) Comments can also be
mailed to Beth Smyre, PE at NCDOT-Project Development and
Environmental Analysis Unit, 1548 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC
27699-1548. The comment period closes on Jan. 20, 2012.