As work on the Jug Handle Bridge in northern Rodanthe continues to heat up, the new Bonner Bridge is inching closer to a late 2018 completion and opening date.
“They are still evaluating if there will be any schedule changes due to the recent storms,” said Tim Haas, NCDOT Public Relations Officer. “[But] we are still expecting to be complete by the end of the year.”
“We should have a clearer idea of the actual [opening] date in a week or so,” he added.
Once the bridge is complete, it is expected to open in one-lane stages. For example, one direction of traffic will be directed to the new bridge while the other lane is worked on, while traffic in the opposite direction (north or south) will be directed to the old, current Bonner Bridge.
There are two or three decks on the new Bonner Bridge that still need to be cast, and a new barrier rail that is being constructed, in addition to the continual grinding – or smoothing – of decks and approaches. Utilities to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands have to be moved over to the new bridge structure as well in the weeks to come.
Meanwhile, at the new 2.4-mile “Jug Handle Bridge,” which will extend from Rodanthe to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a platform and rail system is being constructed to make it easier to move materials required for the project.
“What you’re seeing there is not an actual part of the bridge, but the platform that will allow materials to be sent out to the sound,” said Haas.
Currently, all work is concentrated on the Rodanthe terminus of the bridge, and there is no set date on when work at the Pea Island side of the bridge will begin.
Staging for the Jug Handle Bridge, or the initial portion of the overall project, began earlier this summer, and based on the current schedule, the Jug Handle Bridge is expected to open to traffic by late 2020.
Traffic is to be maintained on N.C. Highway 12 while the new Jug Handle Bridge is being built, and once construction is complete, the existing roadway in the refuge will be removed, while the existing section of N.C. Highway 12 in Rodanthe will remain open to provide access to private properties.
The new Jug Handle Bridge, along with the Capt. Richard Etheridge Bridge on Pea Island which was completed in the spring of 2018, is considered part of the second phase of the overall Bonner Bridge replacement project.