By Ken Watling
RODANTHE, N.C. (WNCT) – Plans are moving forward to build a new bridge along the Outer Banks, vital to making the area more accessible for residents and visitors.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation awarded the contract to build the bridge to a Colorado company late last week.
It’s a project that will dramatically change the landscape of the Outer Banks, and it’s desperately needed, as large storms in the past have washed out sections of N.C. Highway 12, requiring millions of dollars of repairs.
The planned 2.4-mile “jug handle” bridge will extend west from Rodanthe into the Pamlico Sound before returning to Highway 12’s current alignment.
But not everyone on the island is happy about the plans moving forward.
“Some of the most beautiful views in the United States are going to be destroyed by this massive bridge that they want to put in,” said Rick Shaftan, a Rodanthe resident. “What we’re looking forward to is something smaller and at a fraction of the cost.”
Despite the criticism from some residents, the plans are moving forward.
The NCDOT said building the bridge from the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge into Rodanthe is the best option.
“The bridge in the sound is more protected,” said Brian Yamamoto, the NCDOT engineering supervisor. “It’s further away from the forces of the ocean. For us, that’s attractive. If we were to elevate the road on existing N.C. 12, we think it would be subject to ocean forces in the relative near future.”
The Department of Transportation awarded a $145.3 million contract to design and build the bridge to Flatiron Construction of Broomfield, Colorado. Construction is expected begin next year and be finished by 2020.
That’s earlier and cheaper than first proposed.
Earlier estimates had been $180 to $200 million with a 2021 completion date.
Eighty percent of the visitors who come to North Carolina visit the Outer Banks, and the Rodanthe Bridge isn’t the only project aiming to make Hatteras Island more accessible.
Construction continues on the replacement for the Bonner Bridge at Oregon Inlet.
Right now, the bridge is about 20 percent complete. It’s expected to open to traffic in November 2018.