Court decision keeps reliable Outer Banks transportation moving forward

The path of Highway NC 12 along the North Carolina Outer Banks experiences frequent washouts, which a new bridge will address by moving the road off the spit of shifting sands and into the Pamlico Sound.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.-- A federal court just ruled in favor of SELC and the conservation groups they represent in defending the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s plan to provide safe, reliable transportation on Hatteras Island by moving a section of Highway NC-12 into Pamlico Sound, away from high-erosion areas in Rodanthe and the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge where the current road frequently washes out.

Bridging Pamlico Sound

This 2015 map outlines the new bridges planned as part of the replacement of the deteriorating Bonner Bridge, which links the southern end of the Outer Banks to the mainland via NC 12.

This result is an example of agencies collaborating to select the right approach, adapt to sea level rise and more frequent storms, and preserve natural resources while keeping traffic flowing safely and smoothly,” said Senior Attorney Kym Hunter. “It is essential that our state and local agencies plan for long-term transportation solutions that keep people safe and adapt to changing conditions such as the highly volatile environment that surrounds NC Highway 12.”

The Rodanthe bridge is part of the Bonner Bridge replacement project. It was selected by a unanimous vote of all 13 state and federal agencies participating in the project.

It’s wonderful that this project is moving forward,” said Desiree Sorenson-Groves of the National Wildlife Refuge Association, which, along with Defenders of Wildlife, was represented by SELC. “It protects travelers on Highway 12 from shutdowns due to storms and sea level rise, while returning 19 acres of restored habitat to the Pea Island Refuge – it is truly a win for the whole community. ”

The bridge at Rodanthe, known as “Phase IIb” of the Bonner Bridge project, is the first of what could be multiple sections of Highway 12 to be moved out of high-erosion areas within the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Another section, known as “Phase IIa” of the project is located in the middle of the refuge at the Pea Island inlet that opened due to Hurricane Irene in 2011. Several temporary bridges have been constructed along Highway 12 in this area. A more permanent, resilient solution would be to permanently move the highway in this area out into Pamlico Sound to avoid continued erosion.

Construction on the Rodanthe bridge will begin this summer.

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