lawsuit filed in February 2017 that aimed to stop construction of the
2.4-mile “Jug Handle Bridge” north of Rodanthe has been dismissed by a
initial behind-the-scenes steps of the project are already underway,
with permitting and right of way acquisitions being put into place, and
staging being set up near the bridge’s southern terminal in soundside
2017 lawsuit was filed by Save Our Sound OBX Inc. and six individual
plaintiffs against the NCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration,
and argued 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. NCDOT was also joined in defending
the construction of the bridge by the Defenders of Wildlife and the
National Wildlife Refuge Association, which were represented by the
Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC).
two groups, represented by the SELC, had previously sued NCDOT to try
to stop replacement of the Bonner Bridge and other N.C. Highway 12
projects before the Bonner Bridge project officially broke ground in
2016. The environmental groups and NCDOT and the Federal Highway
Administration reached a settlement on this lawsuit in June 2015.
of that 2015 settlement included NCDOT identifying the bridge out into
the sound, (the Jug Handle Bridge), as its preferred alternative in
north Rodanthe, and asking the merger team - a group of state and
federal agencies involved with studying and permitting the bridges - to
make it the selected alternative. In multiple public comment sessions
and studies, the Jug Handle Bridge was also identified as a preferred
option over several previous proposals, which included a 17-mile long
bridge that was too costly, and an elevated bridge that followed N.C.
12 but which was deemed an eyesore by public commenters, and which was
dropped by the NCDOT due to its exposure to ocean flooding.
the 46-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Louise Flanagan dismissed
the plaintiff's claims that NCDOT's decision to build the Jug Handle
Bridge was made without careful study and was predetermined by the
earlier settlement with the environmental groups.
The Jug Handle Bridge is slated to be open to traffic by late 2020.
project was first proposed in response to severe beach erosion at the
“S-Curves” in north Rodanthe, particularly after Hurricane Irene in
2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
After public comment periods, NCDOT identified the 2014B Bridge on New Location Alternative as the preferred alternative in the revised Environmental Assessment – approved by the Federal Highway Administration on May 24, 2016.
January 2017, the N.C. Department of Transportation awarded a
design-build contract to Flatiron Constructors, Inc. to build the $145
million Rodanthe Bridge. 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.
Jug Handle Bridge will stretch from the southern portion of the Pea
Island National Wildlife Refuge to northern Rodanthe, and will
completely bypass the troublesome S-Turns section.
News and Observer reported that Mark Haines, a member of the group and
a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said that an appeal is possible.
“We don’t agree with the decision, and we’re considering options moving forward,” Haines was quoted in the News & Observer.
Public Relations Officer (Ferry & Div. 1) Tim Haas said in an
earlier 2018 interview that the lawsuit was not interfering with
progress and planning of the bridge, and the construction itself could
officially begin as early as this month. “…As we get closer to
June, we will start to see some more activity at the site, and more
shovels in the dirt,” said Hass.