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16 Aug 2019
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Whether you’re from the area or a long-time visitor, chances are that you’ve heard of the infamous “S-curves” on Pea Island. The name refers to a specific stretch of NC-12 that curves in an “S” shape right before entering the town of Rodanthe. Unfortunately, the “S-curves” are notorious for a reason—this stretch of road is regularly flooded during storms and hurricanes cutting off Hatteras Island from the rest of the world.

Sometimes the road is just impassable until sand is cleared. However, ocean overwash is common and in some cases, major hurricanes, like Irene and Sandy, have created breaches along this stretch of sand. These closures can be extremely detrimental to the local and state economy. First of all, it takes NC DOT thousands of dollars to repair the road after these storms. Meanwhile, residents are unable to get off the island except by boat or ferry. Lastly, tourism revenue (which greatly benefits the state of North Carolina as well as Dare and nearby coastal counties) takes a huge hit since visitors aren't able to get back onto the island. This can be especially costly during the peak summer and early fall months with unfortunately coincide with many major Atlantic storms.

Ultimately, since this stretch of land is extremely fragile, road reconstruction after each storm is just not an efficient or cost-effective fix. Although a long time coming, plans for a more permanent, long-term solution began after Hurricane Sandy. The concluding solution? The Rodanthe "Jughandle" Bridge.

Building a Bridge

The decided long-term solution was to build a bridge that bypassed the “S-curves” portion of NC 12 completely. The Record of Decision to build the bridge was issued by the Federal Highway Administration on December 15, 2016. Although a few different alternative bridge plans were considered, the 2014B Bridge plan was accepted. By January 2017, NC DOT had awarded the design and building contract to Flatiron Constructors, Inc.

The bridge itself will be 2.4 miles long and will utilize a “jug handle” design (jutting out into the Pamlico Sound and curving back around to meet the land at a point further South) to minimize environmental impact, particularly along the fragile shoreline.

The project is estimated to cost $145 million. The bridge itself should provide reliable passage for visitors and residents traveling to and from the northern towns of the Outer Banks and Hatteras Island. This bridge, along with the NC 12 Pea Island Interim Bridge, is considered Phase II of the Bonner Bridge Replacement Project.

Completion and Opening

The construction process officially began in July 2018 and by September, the first piling was driven into the ground. Flatiron estimates the completion will be around April 2020 thanks to the use of innovative solutions designed to keep workflow moving smoothly despite unique island conditions. However, NC DOT has estimated the bridge will be open to traffic sometime in late 2020 or early 2021. There is always a potential for unforeseen delays due to coastal weather and storm conditions which proved to cause several delays on the Bonner Bridge project. Currently, construction is ongoing with crews working at both the South and North ends of the bridge. Drivers are asked to remain alert when traveling through the area due to the presence of construction workers and equipment along with possible lane closures.

Visiting Hatteras Island

While you’re on your Outer Banks Vacation, a day trip to Hatteras Island is a fun activity for the whole family! Aside from the great landmarks and restaurants, the trip itself allows visitors to explore a beautiful scenic byway. In fact, the Outer Banks is one of America’s Most Scenic Waterside Drives according to Travel+Leisure Magazine, so you definitely don’t want to skip out on a trip down the coast! It’s never too late to book a trip to the Outer Banks—simply check out our Last Minute Specials & Hot Deals to find the perfect beach home. If you prefer to stay further south, we even offer Outer Banks Vacation Rentals on Hatteras Island!

Tip: Don’t forget to bookmark this page! We will periodically update as construction on the bridge progresses. You can also join our email list to get updates on all things Outer Banks!

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Jessie has been coming to the Outer Banks since she was just 5 years old. She loved it here so much that she finally relocated in 2018. Now her mission is to show the world that the Outer Banks is an incredible place that everyone should experience. When she isn't working, you can find Jessie hanging out with her friends, chilling at home with her awesome cat, Yoji, or discovering a new Outer Banks adventure.