The 2.4 mile Jug Handle Bridge project, which will bypass
the area north of Rodanthe known as the S-Curves, is quietly gearing up for a
June 2018 construction start date.
“We’re doing a lot of behind the scenes work right now, such
as permitting and right of way acquisitions,” said NCDOT Public Relations
Officer (Ferry & Div. 1) Tim Haas, “but as we get closer to June, we will
start to see some more activity at the site, and more shovels in the dirt.”
The Jug Handle Bridge will stretch from the southern portion
of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to northern Rodanthe, and will
bypass the S-Turns section, which is susceptible to breaches during storms.
The area was temporarily impassable during both 2011’s
Hurricane Irene and 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, as well as a handful of nor’easters
in the past few years – including the 2018 storm in early March.
The bridge earned its “jug handle” moniker from its distinctive
shape that juts out into the Pamlico Sound before reconnecting with N.C.
Highway 12 north of Rodanthe. Per NCDOT, this design – which is also referred
to as the preferred alternative – minimizes impacts to the Pea Island National
Wildlife Refuge, the ocean shoreline, and the community of Rodanthe while
maintaining safe and reliable access for residents and visitors.
NCDOT also proposes building a one-lane roundabout, (as
opposed to a traditional "T" type intersection), at the end of the
existing N.C. 12, and by the relocated N.C. 12 near the Pea Island National
Wildlife Refuge. This was developed as a means to provide a safer intersection
with less potential conflict points - areas where drivers are crossing, merging
or leaving a road.
In January 2017, the N.C. Department of Transportation
awarded a design-build contract to Flatiron Constructors, Inc. to build the Jug
Based on Flatiron's schedule, the bridge is expected to open
to traffic by late 2020.
Traffic would be maintained on N.C. 12 while the new bridge
is being built, and once construction is complete, the existing roadway in the
refuge would be removed, and that land would be returned to the refuge. In
Rodanthe, the existing N.C. 12 roadway would remain to provide access to private
As of late March, a lawsuit against the state that was filed
by a group of tri-village area property owners in February 2017 was not an
impediment to a 2018 starting date.
In the lawsuit, the attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that
the bridge’s Record of Decision, the final step in the review process, was
unlawful because the required extensive environmental review was not done.
“The lawsuit is processing through the court system and we
hope to have it resolved sometime this year,” said Haas.