Concrete bridge will replace steel structure on Outer Banks

A few hundred yards of N.C. 12 and its protective dunes will be rebuilt at Kitty Hawk, to repair damage caused in early October by Hurricane Joaquin.
A few hundred yards of N.C. 12 and its protective dunes will be rebuilt at Kitty Hawk, to repair damage caused in early October by Hurricane Joaquin. N.C. Department of Transportation

The state Department of Transportation is preparing to build a temporary concrete bridge for N.C. 12 on Pea Island, to replace a temporary steel bridge erected four years ago. The move will also buy time while engineers devise a more nearly permanent solution to keep the Outer Banks highway above the stormy Atlantic.

It’s one of a string of bridge projects in various stages of development along N.C. 12 in Dare County, which is increasingly vulnerable to rough weather and rising seas.

With an apparent low bid of $14.2 million, T.A. Loving Co. of Goldsboro is expected to get the contract for the 2,300-foot-long bridge, to be completed by spring 2017.

DOT had begun building a permanent $59 million bridge there last year, planning to elevate N.C. 12 for two miles along its current track through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. But that project was scrapped as part of a deal with conservation groups whose lawsuits had blocked a more urgent DOT project: an overdue replacement for the deteriorating Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet.

The fates of several bridges were decided in a legal settlement announced in June:

▪  To replace a 660-foot steel truss bridge built quickly after Hurricane Irene opened a new inlet on Pea Island in 2011, DOT will build the new temporary concrete structure while it pursues the environmentalists’ preferred solution: Moving N.C. 12 off the island, curving out over Pamlico Sound. A study of this option will be completed in early 2017.

▪  Farther south, DOT will proceed with its plan to spend an estimated $190 million for a 2.5-mile bridge that will take the highway over the sound in a “jug handle” loop, bypassing a fragile stretch at the Hatteras Island village of Rodanthe.

“We still don’t have a timetable for when it will go to construction,” DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Heiss said.

Eventually, if Pamlico Sound also is approved for the path around the Pea Island inlet, these two bridges might be combined to form a single seven-mile structure over water.

▪  Construction could start next spring on the new 2.7-mile Oregon Inlet bridge, which links Pea and Hatteras islands to the mainland. The original contract was awarded for $216 million in 2011, before lawsuits stopped it. A new contract price has not been announced.

Meanwhile this week, repairs are underway for the newest breach on N.C. 12, about 25 miles north of Pea Island at Kitty Hawk.

An ocean storm in the spring of 2014 obliterated a few hundred yards of pavement and dunes. An adjoining stretch was wiped out in early October by the combination of Hurricane Joaquin and a second storm.

Waff Contracting Inc. of Edenton was awarded a $413,000 contract to rebuild N.C. 12, known as Beach Road in Kitty Hawk. The work also includes rebuilding dunes, Heiss said, using 4.5-ton sandbags.

N.C. 12 traffic at Kitty Hawk will be detoured on U.S. 158 until the repairs are finished in December.

Bruce Siceloff: 919-829-4527, @Road_Worrier