By Joy Crist, The Island Free Press
The Jug Handle Bridge at Rodnathe is 39 percent complete as of Thursday, and the bridge is on track to open to the public in the fall of 2021, per an update from the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s resident engineer for the project, Pablo Hernandez.
Hernandez reported at a Thursday evening virtual meeting that 43 out of 108 bents, the groups of that pilings support each span of the bridge, have been installed, with a total of 164 out of 352 pilings complete. 34 out of 107 deck spans have also been cast.
Most of the drainage pipes, earthworks, and paving for the bridge’s roundabout also took place in April of 2020. The next phase of paving for the roundabout will take place this summer.
Single lane closures due to work zones on N.C. 12 are not anticipated during the summer months and the ensuing paving projects, however, this is subject to change.
The 39 percent completion is a noticeable jump since the last informational meeting in March, when the bridge was 28% complete. In December of 2019, the bridge was 24 percent complete. However, Hernandez noted that progress was moving slower on the northern end of the 2.4-mile-long structure.
“Yes, we’re having challenges at the north end of the project, and different techniques are being used to increase the efficiency of the pile driving operations there,” he said.
“On the southern end, if you’ve been watching the bridge being built from the water or the shoreline, or following the local media, the southern end of the bridge is ‘coming around the curve,’” he added. “…So, we are coming out of the curve and are [starting] on the long straightaway that will eventually connect with the north end of the project.”
Hernandez also stated that recent pile driving did not have any impacts on the Pappy Lane shipwreck in the Pamlico Sound near Rodanthe, which was identified in October of 2017 by a team of researchers as a World War II troop transport. “It is still there, and visible in the water, and we are still monitoring it, as we have another phase where we have to remove temporary pilings around [the wreck],” he said. “But based on previous operations, we are confident there will be no impacts to the Pappy Lane Shipwreck.”
Traffic will start to be phased onto the new bridge via the new roundabout in the fall of 2021. At the same time, crews will remove the stretch of N.C. Highway 12 from the southern boundary of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to the northern end of the project.
“Will also start building a new parking lot which will be a replacement for the parking lot that used to be on the oceanside of the New Inlet, which is now bypassed by the Captain Richard Etheridge Bridge,” stated Hernandez at the meeting.
The Jug Handle Bridge 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 and ocean overwash during storms.
The 2.4 mile-long Jug Handle Bridge, along with the Etheridge and Marc Basnight bridges, is considered part of Phase II of the Bonner Bridge Replacement Project, and is the final bridge of the three new bridges on Hatteras Island to be built.
Updates on the status of the Jug Handle Bridge, as well as planned construction activities in the coming month, are available online at https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/nc-12-rodanthe/Pages/planned-construction.aspx.
In addition, more information on the bridge project, which includes project history, maps, documents, and videos, can be found at https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/nc-12-rodanthe/Pages/default.aspx.
This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.