December 3, 2012

Checkpoint moves south; part of Pea Island refuge reopens


The northern checkpoint on the four-wheel-drive-only portion of Highway 12 moved over the weekend from the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center to just south of the temporary bridge at Pea Island Inlet.

As a result, parts of Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge reopened on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Highway 12 and the refuge had been closed since Hurricane Sandy in late October damaged the road, leveled many of the dunes in the refuge, and deposited several feet of sand in the roadbed.

On Saturday, Nov. 10, the North Carolina Department of Transportation reopened Highway 12 between the Bonner Bridge and northern Rodanthe to four-wheel-drive vehicles only between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The southern checkpoint on the four-wheel route is in northern Rodanthe at Mirlo Beach.

Both checkpoints are manned by the Dare County Sheriff’s Office.

Since the route was established, DOT has repaired and repaved damaged deck cables on the Bonner Bridge and repaired and repaved damage to the approaches on the north and south of the temporary bridge at the inlet opened last year by Hurricane Irene.

The only work remaining on the temporary bridge is the repair of the guardrails, which was to begin over the weekend.  One lane of traffic will be maintained on the bridge until the guardrail work is completed.

The most problematic area for DOT continues to be in the area of the S-curves and Mirlo Beach, where about a half mile of road and sandbags were damaged.  There was also significant beach erosion in the area during the hurricane and two northeasters that quickly followed it.

DOT is currently considering two options for repairing that part of the highway.

The first option is to repair the highway in its original location, which was the plan right after the storm. However, with the erosion in the area, emergency beach nourishment will now be needed to make this option workable.

The second option is to temporarily move the road to the west and install a short bridge over the trouble area that overwashes with some high tides.

DOT has not yet said which option it will choose.
You can read more about the options in last week’s Editor’s Blog.

Meanwhile, a sand road has been established west of the damaged highway, but the sand is soft and deep and restricted to four-wheel-drive vehicles with payloads of less than one ton.  Vehicles with trailers are also prohibited.

With the move of the northern checkpoint, the only portion of Highway 12 now restricted to four-wheel vehicles only is between the temporary bridge and northern Rodanthe.
Pea Island refuge is now open only from the north and only as far south as the temporary bridge.

The Pea Island Visitor Center also reopened yesterday.  Visitor Center hours are 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. daily. The refuge is open during daylight hours only and vehicles are limited to designated roadways and parking areas.


Four-wheel-drive route information

Only four-wheel drives vehicles are permitted on the route. There are checkpoints south of the temporary bridge at Pea Island Inlet and in Mirlo Beach in Rodanthe.

The route is restricted to vehicles with payloads less than one ton -- basically vehicles no larger than a Ford F350 or a Chevrolet/Dodge 3500. Vehicles towing trailers also are not permitted to use the route.

The route is open from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.  Before dawn and after dusk, a Dare County Sheriff’s Office pilot car leads the traffic through the area.

NCDOT asks motorists to follow these important safety measures on the four-wheel drive access:
  • Only drive four-wheel drive vehicles with a high ground clearance. Cross-over four-wheel drive vehicles that are lower to the ground may get stuck in the rugged terrain;
  • If you drive at night, use extreme caution. There will be no lights staged along the route, so your vehicle's headlights will offer the only way for you to see;
  • Drive slowly; 
  • Pay close attention to the temporary traffic signals and
  • All four-wheel drive vehicles are encouraged to lower tire pressure to minimize the chances of becoming stuck.

Emergency ferry schedule

The emergency ferry is open to everyone, including visitors.
Those wishing to use the emergency route are reminded to expect waits and to be patient, as priority status is still in effect. Repair and supply trucks have priority at all times. Dare County residents have priority Monday through Friday.

The waits have been long at times on the emergency ferry, which takes at least two hours to cross the sound. You are advised to arrive early and be patient. You might also consider bringing water, coffee, soft drinks, and snacks.
The Stumpy Point-Rodanthe schedule is:
  • Departing Stumpy Point at 6 a.m., 8, 10, noon, 2 p.m., 4, 6 and 10 p.m.
  • Departing Rodanthe at 7 a.m., 9, 11, 1 p.m., 3, 5, 7 and 9 p.m.

Ferry information is available by calling 800-293-3779 (BY-FERRY) and pressing 1, or via Twitter at

Directions to the Stumpy Point Emergency Ferry Dock at 100 Log Storage Road, off Highway 264:  Take Highway 64 to Highway 264.  Follow Highway 264 approximately 13 miles past the entrance to the village of Stumpy Point.  Signs for emergency ferry service are posted to ferry entrance that will be on your left. 

Directions to the Rodanthe Emergency Ferry Dock at 23170 Myrna Peters Road, Rodanthe:  Turn west off Highway 12 onto Myrna Peters Road, which is located just north of the Community Building in Rodanthe. 

Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry schedule

Visitors can now enter Hatteras Island via the Hatteras Inlet ferry. The ferry is still running every two hours.

The Hatteras-Ocracoke schedule is:
  • Departing Hatteras at 6 a.m., 8, 10, noon, 2 p.m., 4, 6, 8, 10 and midnight; and
  • Departing Ocracoke at 5 a.m., 7, 9, 11, 1 p.m., 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.

For visitors wishing to come to Hatteras through Ocracoke, keep in mind that travel from Cedar Island to Ocracoke and Swan Quarter to Ocracoke requires a reservation by calling 1-800-293-3779.

Swan Quarter and Cedar Island ferries

Access to Hatteras is also available via sound ferries from the mainland to Ocracoke and then on the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferry.

The ferries from Swan Quarter and Cedar Island require a reservation.

The Swan Quarter-Ocracoke winter schedule is:
  • Departing Swan Quarter at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.; and
  • Departing Ocracoke at 7 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
The Cedar Island-Ocracoke winter schedule is:
  • Departing Cedar Island at 7 am., 10 and 4 p.m.; and
  • Departing Ocracoke at 7:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4.
Ferry reservations can be made online at or by calling 800-293-3779 (BY-FERRY) and pressing 2. Ferry information is available via Twitter at

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