As the former Lego Bridge on Pea Island is dismantled, and progress continues on the new Bonner Bridge, the third bridge in the trio of Hatteras Island projects – the “Jug Handle” Bridge – is nearing its early 2018 starting date.
“Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2018, and starting in January and February, crews are going to be working in the staging area – grading and doing pile tests,” says Nora McCann, Project Planning Engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. “We’re still on schedule for a March starting date.”
The Jug Handle Bridge will stretch from the southern portion of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to northern Rodanthe, and will bypass the section known as the “S-curves,” 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.
The entire project includes the construction of a 2.4-mile bridge – known as a “jug handle” – that extends from the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge over the Pamlico Sound into the town Rodanthe. This design is intended to minimize impacts to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, the ocean shoreline, and the community of Rodanthe.
NCDOT also proposes building a one-lane roundabout, (as opposed to a traditional “T” type intersection), at the end of the existing N.C. Highway 12, and relocated N.C. Highway 12 near the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Traffic will be maintained on N.C. Highway 12 while the new bridge is being built. 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. Highway 12 roadway would remain to provide access to private properties in the northern area of the village.
The project will be completed by Flatiron Constructors, Inc., who was awarded the design-build contract in January 2017.
Based on Flatiron’s schedule, the bridge is expected to open to traffic by early summer 2020.
As of November 30, 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 starting in March. 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 litigation is going according to schedule,” said Timothy Hass, Public Relations Officer with the NCDOT for Division 1 and the Ferry Division. “The arguments will be submitted the first quarter of 2018, and we’re proceeding with the project as scheduled at this point.”