September 16, 2014

UPDATE: New concept includes
7-mile bridge into Pamlico Sound


A new concept being considered by the North Carolina Department of Transportation  would include a 7-mile bridge into the Pamlico Sound that would run from just north of Pea Island Inlet --at the dike at the southern pond on the refuge -- down to northern Rodanthe.

DOT announced yesterday that it is in discussions with the Southern Environmental Law Center and its clients in the legal impasse over the replacement of the Bonner Bridge and the solutions for the hotspots along Highway 12.

The new concept is outlined in a PowerPoint presentation that DOT gave last week when the department met with the Highway 12 merger team, comprised of state and federal resource and regulatory agencies, to brief members on the status of the project and solicit feedback.

The new concept is labeled "future extension concept" on a map of the area that is included in the PowerPoint. DOT said it is "under consideration" in the discussions.

It is unclear if the Pea Island Inlet bridge, which was under construction until DOT ordered a work stoppage last week, would still be built and if the department will still proceed with one of two options to bridge the S-Curves and northern Rodanthe and then join the two with a future bridge out into the sound.

The northern Rodanthe phase of addressing the hotspots is known as Phase IIb.  The Pea Island Inlet portion is Phase IIa.

Phase IIb was presented to the public last January with two options -- one a bridge over the hotspot in the current right of way and the other a 2.3 mile bridge out into Pamlico Sound.  Both would rejoin Highway 12 in the area of Island Convenience. DOT promised a decision on which option it would choose in late summer, but that never happened.

On the other hand, the department could be considering scratching both IIa and IIb and building the 7-mile bridge instead. Or maybe just scratching IIa, the Pea Island Inlet bridge.

On the graphic of the northern Rodanthe area and the options included on Page 22 of the PowerPoint -- the map is also at the top of this page -- there are two revised options for the northern Rodanthe "bridge in new location, labeled 2014 revised A and 2014 revised B.

Both of those options bring the bridge in closer to the island than the 2013 proposal for the bridge to avoid as much as possible the submerged aquatic vegetation out further in the sound. The National Marine Fisheries Service raised the issue of the impact of a bridge in the sound on fisheries because of possible harm to the aquatic vegetation.

In the PowerPoint, DOT also says that it received 12 oral and 78 written comments at  January's public hearings on the options for Phase IIb. Twelve commenters preferred the bridge within the current right-of-way, and 33 commenters and 64 petition signatures favored the bridge into the sound. Three who commented wanted a bridge that could be built sooner, and 26 commenters plus 208 petition signatures favored beach nourishment with no bridge.

DOT said yesterday that because of the confidential nature of the discussions, no additional statements will be released on this issue until conversations are complete and the issue is resolved.

Click here to see the PowerPoint presentation.

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