Island Free Press: Jug Handle Bridge opening slated for late 2021 or early 2022

[photo courtesy NCDOT]

The 2.4 mile-long Jug Handle Bridge is 63% complete as of March 4, with a projected opening date of late 2021 or early 2022, per an update from the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) resident engineer for the project, Pablo Hernandez.

“As of this week, we are about 63% percent [finished], and that’s taking a good average of all the parts and pieces that are needed to complete the bridge, without getting into too much detail,” said Hernandez at the Thursday evening virtual meeting, noting that the 63% was a “good place to be.”

In December of 2020, the Jug Handle Bridge was 53% complete, and in the previous quarterly meeting in September, the bridge was 46% complete. On the north end of the bridge, pile installation has been more challenging than NCDOT personnel expected, but after trying multiple techniques, Hernandez stated at Thursday evening’s update that a method has been identified that helps ease the process.

“As I’ve mentioned before, the north end of the project has been challenging for the piling installation, and that challenge continues,” he said.

But a recently utilized technique of driving the pile a third of the way into the ground, using an auger to loosen the soil, and then completing the installation procedure has proved to be successful.

“We’ve tried different techniques for those [north end] pilings, and we think we have found a technique that gives us some results for piling installation,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez also said that early concrete pours will likely resume in late April, as temperatures become warmer, and activity on the project as a whole will likely pick up.

In addition, work on the paving and earthworks portions of the project will likely increase in the spring as well, although it is unknown whether this will require future lane closures on N.C. Highway 12.

“You’ve probably seen some of the roadway work that is taking place on the north end of the project… There has been some joining of forces in the contractors who are doing our paving and earthworks,” said Hernandez. “Right now, with the paving work at the north end of project, we can do all of that without affecting travel on N.C. Highway 12. Currently, our new paving contractor is evaluating what he can do, and what he is comfortable doing, on the southern end of the project, where there could be [impact to travel.]”

As of Thursday evening, 78 of 108 bents have been installed, (also known as the groups of pilings that will support each individual span of the bridge), with a total of 253 out of 352 pilings complete.

228 of 388 concrete girders have also been set, and 64 out of 107 deck spans have been cast. There are also 339 beams that support the concrete road surface, and 228 of those beams have been set to date.

Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) has also been hard at work, as they are in the process of their corresponding efforts to move the existing transmission lines to the new structure. As of March 4, CHEC has successfully installed cables at the southern end of the project, (roughly four feet underground), and that work will likely continue in the months to come. “Hopefully, this spring, they will be doing some undergrown conduit installation like they did this past December and January,” said Hernandez.

The Jug Handle Bridge 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. (The Captain Richard Etheridge Bridge on Pea Island was completed in the spring of 2018, and the Bonner Bridge replacement was completed in the spring of 2019.)

Once complete, the Jug Handle Bridge will connect the southern portion of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge to northern Rodanthe, bypassing the S-Turns section of N.C. Highway 12, which is highly susceptible to breaches and ocean overwash during storms.

Updates on the status of the Jug Handle Bridge, as well as planned construction activities in the coming month, are available online at

In addition, more information on the bridge project, which includes project history, maps, documents, and videos, can be found at

This story originally appeared on Read More local stories here.