From reports by Island Free Press
DARE COUNTY — As work continues on the new Bonner Bridge on track to open in February or March, the second phase of the project is underway.
About a 3,500 foot section of N.C. 12 just north of Rodanthe and the S-curves is being shifted 20 to 30 feet to the east to make way for upcoming construction on the new 2.4-mile “jug handle” bridge, which is considered part of the second phase of the Bonner Bridge Replacement Project, along with the Capt. Richard Etheridge Bridge on Pea Island that was completed spring 2018.
The jug handle bridge, expected to open to traffic by late 2020, will stretch from the southern portion of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to northern Rodanthe, and will bypass the S-turns section of N.C. 12, which is highly susceptible to breaches during storms.
The temporary traffic shift similar to the temporary highway relocation while the Bonner Bridge was under construction will remain in place until the jug handle bridge construction is complete. The move provides more room on the soundside for trucks and equipment to access the northern terminus site of the new jug handle bridge.
“Shifting Highway 12 a little to the east will make it safer and easier for people to (travel through) the area,” said NCDOT Public Relations Officer Tim Haas.
During the move of the roadway and construction, travelers may encounter daytime lane closures Monday through Friday until June 14. One lane of traffic will remain open during these closures. From June 14 through Sept. 14, lane closures will only occur at night to accommodate summertime traffic.
Crews continue to work on the finishing touches of the new Bonner Bridge to allow vehicles on the structure, such as paving the on-ramps that connect the bridge to N.C. 12.
Though there remains a possibility that the bridge will open in one-lane stages, with one lane of traffic directed to the old bridge and one lane directed to the new bridge, it is hoped that the bridge will be accessible in its entirety when it opens, with both lanes ready for traffic.
“Our goal is to open the (entire) bridge at once, without one-lane closures,” said Haas.
Once the new bridge is finished, crews will remove the current Bonner Bridge just east of the new site, leaving behind 1,000 feet of the existing structure at the southern end for recreational use, and sending the old bridge debris to bolster artificial reef sites in Oregon Inlet. The entire project, including the 10 months needed for demolition of the original bridge, is expected to to be complete by the end of the year.
The Bonner Bridge was originally scheduled to open by the end of 2018, but bad weather and two major storms that affected the Outer Banks in the fall caused delay late in the project, which did remain on schedule for the majority of the construction time frame. The bridge will open roughly three years after the project first broke ground in March 2016.
Using high-durability concrete, stainless reinforcing steel and other engineering features, the new Bonner Bridge will have a 100-year lifespan and will provide more options for navigation under the bridge, with a high-rise portion that is 3,500 feet long, and which reaches heights of 90.5 feet into the air.
Project managers are also in the process of orchestrating the grand opening celebration, and the specifics of the official ribbon-cutting ceremony and related events are to be announced soon.
This story is provided courtesy of the Island Free Press, a digital newspaper covering Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. Coastal Review Online is partnering with the Free Press to provide readers with more environmental and lifestyle stories of interest along our coast.