After Hurricane Sandy brushed by the Outer Banks in late October and damaged Highway 12, the North Carolina Department of Transportation said it planned to have the road repaired and open by Thanksgiving.
That didn?t happen because of a siege of northeast winds that kept the ocean washing over the highway at Mirlo Beach and the S-curves at each high tide for days and days.
Now folks are wondering if Highway 12 will be repaired and ready for all vehicles ? not just four-wheel-drives ? by Christmas.
It?s still possible but probably not a good bet at this point. Christmas is just a little more than three weeks away.
Jerry Jennings, DOT District 1 engineer, said earlier this week that the department is now considering two options for the short-term repair of the road and is exploring them concurrently.
The first option is to repair the highway in its original location, which was the plan right after the storm.
However, he added, with the erosion of the beach after the hurricane and several northeasters, this option is no longer possible without some ?emergency? nourishment of the beach at the S-curves.
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.
Temporarily, in this case, Jennings said means for three to four years until DOT can have a long-term solution in place for the troubled area at the S-curves.
Jennings said that DOT is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CAMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies to determine which option is the most feasible and will make a decision within ?two or three days.?
Allen Burrus of Hatteras village, vice-chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners, said yesterday that he has been told by DOT officials that a deal has been worked out on the first option and that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking the lead on the arrangements.
He said he was told that the funding for the nourishment would come from the Federal Highway Administration and that the Army Corps would move a large dredge from Wilmington to pump the sand onto the beach at the S-curves.
Burrus said he did not know yet how much the project will cost or where the sand will come from. However, he added that he hopes that the project will not only provide added sand for the beach but also can provide a new reconstructed dune line in the area.
There are still details to be worked out on the nourishment and permits to be secured, so moving the road to the west with a short bridge is also still under consideration.
Although DOT has proven it can work quickly when challenged with problems on the highway, getting all the permits in place for either one of the options will be time consuming and complicated.
And, therefore, not a sure bet for Christmas travelers.
We may still be depending on the ferries and the four-wheel-drive route through the S-curves.
Meanwhile, DOT?s long-term solution to the problems at the S-curves is now not expected until at least March, which is a year longer than was first announced.
Click here to read a story on the long-term solutions on the Local News Page.