The new Pea Island Interim Bridge is close to completion, with paving and other final tasks scheduled for the next week or so, and an opening planned in November.
“We are trying to schedule and sequence all the events that need to take place,” said Pablo A. Hernandez, the resident engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the project manager for the ongoing island bridge projects. “Right now, it is looking like we could be in a position to shift traffic into the new structure by the first or middle of next week.”
A little more than a mile of traffic near the Pea Island Bridge is expected to be in a one-lane traffic pattern, due to the elevation difference of the new road, and the process of tying in the new road to the existing Highway 12.
The elevation difference is up to 16” in some places, and the one-lane traffic pattern will be implemented from about a half mile north of a bridge, to about a half mile south of the bridge.
“We have to do it in stages to be safe,” said Hernandez. “Because of that change in elevation between the existing road and the new road, we can’t do it all in one lift, and we need to spread it out over the whole roadway.”
“We will be alternating the lanes we’re working in to bring that elevation up gradually, and to allow traffic to be maintained in a safe manner.”
Starting as early as next week, travelers should expect a one-lane traffic pattern controlled by flaggers and / or a pilot car, or a temporary traffic light.
Like most endeavors on Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, the progress of the remainder of the project depends heavily on the weather.
“This time of year, we need every good day to get paving done,” said Hernandez, noting that there is an estimated 10-12 days of paving left to do. “We are trying to avoid one-lane traffic on the weekends, but we can’t guarantee that we won’t have that configuration on the weekends – With weather and equipment, operations could shift.”
The asphalt for the Pea Island Bridge project is coming in from Jamesville, which is roughly a two-hour drive away, not counting the other work zones at the Bonner Bridge and the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge.
In addition to the paving, guardrails will be installed along the bridge structure starting this week, and the asphalt will be shaped back to its original configuration circa 2014.
“[In 2014], the road had four foot shoulders and 12 foot lanes,” says Hernandez. “Right now, there’s no shoulder in the northbound [lane], so we have to mill and reshape the road so we can put it back in the original formation.”
“There are a lot of operations going on at once, and we’re trying to sequence those events so that everyone has a chance to get their work done.”
If the weather cooperates and the schedule holds, the new bridge should be completed the week of November 13.
“The best case scenario is that we would have traffic on the new structure by the middle of next week, with final configuration the following week,” said Hernandez.