Bridges could be long-term solution for N.C. 12

By on October 19, 2011

The new bridge at Pea Island. (NCDOT)

Beach nourishment, bridges or relocating parts of the highway are among the options being discussed as long-term solutions to N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island.

State and federal officials met this week to begin talking about the troublesome road, which was breached in several places during Hurricane Irene.

The only highway on Hatteras Island reopened last week after a temporary bridge was built over a 200-foot-wide inlet in the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

That breach and a chronic trouble spot at Mirlo Beach just north of Rodanthe are the two areas state and federal officials will address in their discussions.

“N.C. 12 is the lifeline for the economy of the Outer Banks, and we want to ensure that it offers reliable service to residents and visitors for decades to come,” the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Chief Operating Officer Jim Trogdon said in statement.

“That is why we are working closely with our counterparts to do what Gov. Bev Perdue requested – create a design plan to permanently address the area’s long-range needs.”

NCDOT staff members met with representatives from 12 state and federal agencies Tuesday.

The breaches at Pea Island and Mirlo Beach could be repaired with beach nourishment, with a bridge in the existing easement or by relocating the road and bridges.

Next, NCDOT will hold a panel discussion with coastal science and engineering experts to learn more about changes caused by the hurricane and seek design advice for long-term fixes at the two sites.

NCDOT will also schedule public meetings to present options to citizens and answer questions.

The goal, NCDOT said in a statement, is “presenting a realistic, fundable, buildable design plan” to Gov. Beverly Perdue.

State and federal officials agreed last year to build a new 2.7-mile span parallel to the aging Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet and deal with problems along N.C. 12 separately.

The plan has been criticized by environmental groups, who have sued to stop it, and Hurricane Irene has provided new urgency to long-term solutions.

Envrionmentalists would prefer a 17-mile bridge that bypasses the refuge altogether.

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