DOT’s long-term solution to problems at
S-curves not expected until March
BY CATHERINE KOZAK
transportation officials struggle to make Highway 12 passable through
Mirlo Beach and the S-curves, a decision on the long-term fix at the
troublesome spot has been put off until late winter --- more than a
year later than originally expected.
Beth Smyre, state
Department of Transportation project manager, said that with the
challenges created by Hurricane Sandy, the focus on a permanent
solution has been at Pea Island, where a temporary bridge was installed
last year over the new inlet slashed by Hurricane Irene last year.
merger team ---representatives of state and federal agencies ---in
early November officially signed off on building the replacement bridge
in Pea Island within the existing easement, basically where the
temporary bridge is situated, Smyre said.
“We’re trying to get the documentation done so we can award a
contract,” she said.
the contract is done for the 2.1-mile concrete bridge, hopefully in
March, Smyre said, the department will announce the chosen alternative
for the northern Rodanthe breach.
Alternative fixes for the road
at the S-curves were narrowed down by NCDOT to two possibilities after
a series of meetings last year. One proposed long-term solution would
be to construct a 2.5-mile bridge that would be 25-to 30-feet high and
would go out into Pamlico Sound around the S-curves and tie into the
highway south of Mirlo. The other alternative would be construction of
a bridge within the existing right-of-way.
selection was supposed to be made in late 2011. The next preliminary
deadline in spring 2012 came and went without a decision. All progress
was halted when Hurricane Sandy blew through in October, and problems
were exacerbated by the two northeasters that followed.
said that the driving surface of the Pea Island bridge will be 23 feet
high and cost just under $100 million. Construction is expected to take
about two to three years, and traffic will be maintained on the
temporary bridge until the replacement is completed.
“The new bridge is going to be within the easement,” she
said. “The impact to the environment is really low.”
environmental assessment providing details about the bridge will be
issued for public review within weeks, she said, followed by a 30-day
comment period and public meetings. The same will be done in the near
future for the two alternatives at Rodanthe.
After the public
process is complete on each project, she said, a final document will be
issued for each one that provides details on the chosen alternative.
Dare County is exploring the potential of doing beach nourishment at
Rodanthe as part of the long-term solution, separate from
The transportation department had dropped plans last year to consider
pumping sand on the beach, citing high costs and lack of available
But county manager Bobby Outten said the discussion by
the Dare County Board of Commissioners is at such an early stage, it’s
not even known whether the National Park Service would challenge the
county’s right to nourish at Mirlo, where the Park Service beach
appears to have eroded away long ago.
The bottom line for Dare County is that access must be maintained for
the long term to Hatteras Island.
are lots of rationales for it,” Outten said, defending criticism of the
costs. “We are a donor county --- we take in more tax revenue
than we take from the state. We’ve got a population down there that we
need to supply. We have a national park that needs to have access.”
said it’s hard to imagine the state abandoning a road elsewhere in
North Carolina that provides the only transportation route for 5,000
citizens, as well as the millions of tourists that the economy is
“In other metropolitan areas, they spend
$200 million for a road so people don’t have to sit in traffic,” he
said. "We’re not talking about convenience. We’re talking about
Dennis Stewart, biologist with Pea Island National
Wildlife Refuge, said that the refuge is working closely with the DOT
and supports both their short-term and long-term efforts to restore
But Stewart said the refuge is also waiting to learn
what long-term alternative the DOT will choose in Rodanthe.
There’s no issue whatsoever if they build a bridge in the existing
right-of-way, he said, but there could be concerns if the option chosen
is the one that swings out over Pamlico Sound.
“We’re in a holding pattern until they send us the appropriate
information,” he said.
it’s for short-term or long -term purposes, Stewart said that any
nourishment at Mirlo, which would include some refuge land, could be
problematic if the sand was not compatible. He said he is skeptical
that there is enough good sand available to nourish, but he said the
refuge will not oppose nourishment outright.
“We have standards that have to be met to put sand on the refuge,” he