By Russ Lay on February 1, 2013Barry Hobbs, project manager for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, provided updates on numerous regional highway projects Thursday, including one that will close the Alligator River Bridge for about two weeks.
Hobbs was the keynote speaker at a luncheon hosted by The Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.
After his presentation, Hobbs took questions from the audience.
Of particular note, Hobbs verified that the Alligator River Bridge is scheduled for closing from April 2-14 while a mechanical part in the draw span is replaced. The bridge carries U.S. 64, which is the most direct route from the west to the Outer Banks.
NCDOT determined a temporary ferry service could not be used while the span is closed, so east and westbound traffic will need to take the more circuitous routes leading to U.S. 158 in the north and traversing Pasquotank, Camden and Currituck counties.
Hobbs also said the dredge working the channel between Hatteras and Ocracoke Island had moved 76,000 cubic yards of sand and was “making progress” toward reopening the vital ferry route linking the two islands.
In response to a question, Hobbs said to his knowledge, the Army Corps still had plans to deploy a dredge to move some sand from the ocean off Rodanthe to replenish the beach at the troubled S-Curves just north of the village.
Other solutions, such as placing sandbags weighing several tons along the route have failed, and using hardened structures similar to those protecting the temporary bridge at the new Pea Island inlet are prohibited by state law.
Possible solutions may include constructing a bridge in the same place as the current road north of Mirlo Beach or building a bridge further to the west in Pamlico Sound waters.
An animated look at construction of a new Oregon Inlet bridge. (NCDOT, HDR Engineering Inc.)
Meanwhile, test pilings have been sunk for a replacement to the Bonner Bridge. They will soon undergo vertical and lateral stress tests similar to the same pressures the actual span will experience.
The NCDOT schedule shows a spring 2013 start date for actual construction of the span with completion by February 2016.
However, environmental groups have challenged the process used by NCDOT to choose the so-called “short bridge” route and Hobbs could not be certain of the actual start date, noting “it’s in the hands of the judge” at present.
The new bridge will feature nine navigation spans if and when it is built, which should allow vessels to find deep water much easier in shoaling events and reduce the amount of dredging currently required to keep Oregon Inlet navigable for larger boats.
NCDOT plans to begin replacing the temporary bridge at Pea Island with a permanent structure in the spring of 2013.
The schedule for U.S. 64 widening from Columbia east to Manns Harbor is slated to begin in 2016 and be completed by 2018, including replacement of the Alligator River Bridge in 2016.
Colington Road widening to 30-32 feet in to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic will see acquisition of right of way’s in 2015 and construction in 2017.
In the interim, the hairpin curve in front of the Methodist church on Colington Road will be relocated in 2013.
Significant questions were directed to Hobbs concerning the “Mid-County” bridge in Currituck, which would connect mainland Currituck in Aydlett with Corolla on the Outer Banks.
The bridge, a public-private sector joint venture that will feature a toll road, is awaiting a record of decision, the final environmental sign-off required before contracts can be put to bid.
Even if the “ROD” is approved, construction of the bridge would require significant upfront funding from the state and the current Republican-controlled legislature has thus far been cool to the idea of pumping any money into the project.
Hobbs also noted that virtually every project slated for future construction could face legal challenges and other hurdles from environmental groups and federal agencies.