By Sam Walker on March 19, 2013Gov. Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency for N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island in an effort to push forward a short-term plan to protect the highway from sand and ocean overwash.
Transportation Secretary Tony Tata recommended the declaration after he and the governor toured N.C. 12 and held a town hall meeting in Manteo last week, a statement from the governor’s office said Tuesday.
Residents and business owners appealed to the governor and secretary to take immediate action before the condition of the road jeopardized the upcoming tourist season.
“The people there have real concerns about the road they depend on to get to work, school or medical appointments,” McCrory said in the statement.
“They need a highway that is not forced to close every time a storm approaches,” he said. “By declaring a State of Emergency, NCDOT can fast-track work to rebuild the beach along the S-Curves, so we can keep the road open until a long-term solution is in place.”
Several storms, including Hurricane Sandy last fall, severly eroded the beach along N.C. 12 at the S-Curves in Mirlo Beach north of Rodanthe. NCDOT has already executed an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put sand on the beach there.
NCDOT is working closely with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to swiftly acquire the permit needed, the statement said. The target date to begin beach nourishment is mid-to-late spring, according to the governor’s office.
NCDOT has also acquired $20.8 million in Hurricane Sandy emergency response funding from the Federal Highway Administration to pay for the project.
The one-time emergency effort will fortify the section of N.C. 12 most often threatened by powerful winds for three years, by which time a permanent solution should be built, the statement said.
“We know this work can’t wait. N.C. 12 is an important pipeline for visitors who have a major impact on the local and statewide economy,” Tata said.
“We want to ensure residents get the help they need now as we continue to look for innovative and strategic ways to make a lasting impact,” Tata said.
NCDOT is considering two long-term solutions for the S-Curves, a roughly one-mile section of N.C. 12 just north of Mirlo Beach. They include a bridge within the existing easement and a 2.5-mile bridge that extends into the Pamlico Sound.
The department will hold public meetings about the options this summer and plans to award a contract for construction this fall.
In early March, strong winds pummeled the Outer Banks, causing significant overwash at the S-Turns and forcing the road to close on and off temporarily for more than a week.
NCDOT crews have reopened the road and are replacing the sand that blew off sandbags installed after Hurricane Sandy last year.