Agencies agree on bridges for NC 12 breaches

 The Associated Press

Thursday, December 15, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A bridge that would rise above the Pamlico Sound and bypass two breaches on N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island caused by Hurricane Irene is among those now being considered as a long-term solution for access to the coastal highway.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service representatives proposed a bridge that would start north of a breach on Pea Island and reconnect with land at Rodanthe, the northernmost of the seven villages on Hatteras Island and the site of the second breach, the state Transportation Department said in a news release Thursday.

The proposal came at a meeting of various state and federal agencies involved in finding a more permanent way to repair the road. Early estimates show the bridge would be 5 to 7 miles long, but it’s early in the process to be definitive, DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty said.

DOT is searching for long-term solutions to breaches on the highway, which is the only link from the island farther north to the mainland. Hurricane Irene, which struck in late August, chewed through the island, which was closed for weeks because of the broken road.

A temporary bridge was built over Pea Island breach, and the road reopened in October.

The agencies rejected beach renourishment as a permanent repair at either breach, leaving individual bridges as the only other options being considered. The only other option for the Pea Island breach is a bridge where the road now stands. For the Rodanthe breach, the agencies agreed that DOT should either build a bridge within the easement or build one that extends into the Pamlico Sound.

“There are laws and regulations associated with some of the options that we are not likely to be able to meet,” Jim Trogdon, DOT’s chief operating officer, said in the release. “By focusing our efforts on the most realistic options, we can more efficiently develop long-term fixes for N.C. 12 that will provide a reliable way for people to get to jobs and education.”

Warren Judge, chairman of the Dare County commissioners, said Thursday that he and other commissioners support beach renourishment as the best way to protect the highway. More important, he said, is just fixing the road.

“We have stated our preference — beach renourishment. And not one-time beach renourishment. You build the beaches and you maintain them,” he said. “But regardless of what the answer is, we need a permanent, reliable, secure transportation link.”

He said he was concerned that DOT would not have the money for the single bridge from Pea Island to Rodanthe.

The agencies involved in the process still must sign a form officially agreeing to narrow the existing options and allow for the inclusion of any new options so the process can continue. The agencies expect that to happen within the coming weeks.