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 Handle Bridge.
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 properties.
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.