Rodanthe “Jug Handle” Bridge Opening April 2022
As a homeowner in the Outer Banks area, you have undoubtedly heard about the Rodanthe “Jug Handle” Bridge construction the last few years. This bridge, spanning 2.4 miles over the Pamlico Sound, was designed to provide a safe route between the northern Outer Banks and Hatteras Island by side stepping a stretch of N.C. 12 that is often compromised by extreme coastal weather. After many years of planning and construction, the bridge is finally opening to the public this month!
N.C. 12 Rodanthe Bridge History
Official discussion about needing a bridge on N.C. 12 around Rodanthe began about a decade ago, although the local community knew this stretch of roadway was an area of concern for much longer. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy brought extreme erosion to the area and prompted an emergency response by the Federal Highway Administration. The short-term solution was beach nourishment in which about 1.6-million cubic yards of sand would be dredged from Atlantic sandbars to widen the land. However, it was evident that a long-term solution was still needed.
Hurricane Sandy was just one of many storms that caused road closures along N.C. 12 in that area. Appropriately nicknamed the “s-curves” for the winding road shape, the stretch of roadway connecting Hatteras Island to Pea Island is notorious for ocean over wash. In fact, even mild to moderate storms can sometimes cause sand and water to cover the road to the point that the highway closes completely. A closure essentially isolates Rodanthe and every town south from the rest of the Outer Banks. These closures can also last anywhere from a couple hours to several days. Openings can be dependent upon the tides and even when the road opens, it isn’t always safe for travel. Many residents and visitors know that it isn’t uncommon to drive through quite a bit of sand and standing water. Not only do these closures make it difficult for travel but repairs to the highway are very costly. It was deemed that a bridge, completely avoiding the “s-curves,” would be the best long-term solution.
The contract for the bridge build was awarded to Flatiron Constructors, Inc. by NC DOT in 2017. The jug handle shape was selected based on a 2013 Environmental assessment to avoid impacting marine vegetation. NC DOT also proposed construction of a single-lane roundabout intersection at the end of the existing N.C. 12 to help ease potential congestion. Construction finally began in July 2018 with a projected completion date of late 2021 or early 2022. Overall, the bridge was estimated to cost a little over $145 million dollars.
Opening Day Community Events
After months of construction, the bridge is finally complete! An official community opening day will occur on April 9th for pedestrians and bicycles. Vehicles will be allowed on the bridge later in the month. Visitors who want to participate in the day’s events can park at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Center or the Rodanthe Beach Access parking lot.
- Run the Rodanthe Bridge: Both a 5k and a 5-mile race, benefiting the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Civic Association, will begin at 8AM. Race registration is currently closed and only volunteers and runners will be allowed on the bridge during the race. Travelers should be aware that the southbound lane of N.C. 12 in Rodanthe will be closed during the race so vehicle traffic will alternate in the northbound lane.
- Opening Ceremony: If you want to be one of the first people see the new bridge first-hand, head to Rodanthe for the opening ceremony beginning at 1 PM. Following remarks from local officials, visitors will be able to walk or bike across the bridge until 5 PM.
Impacts on Local Homeowners
Now that the bridge is complete, you may be wondering how it will impact local homeowners. Coldwell Banker Seaside Realty Agent Ashley King, a Hatteras Island native, is excited about the positive impact the bridge can have on locals, future homebuyers, and visitors alike. "The Rodanthe Jug Handle is a huge step in the right direction for the Island offering security to those of us who live and work on Hatteras Island," King explains.
"Not only will the new bridge help in keeping the island open and accessible during times that overwash would normally threaten to close the road, but it also shows the residents that the state does care about maintaining access to our area to ensure tourism continues to thrive. As a Hatteras Island native with many family members who still live locally, it is comforting to know that we now have 3 stable bridges connecting our island to the mainland for off-island needs, and the ability to continue welcoming all who love visiting our wonderful Island, for many years to come."
Although ocean overwash is common along other spots on Hatteras Island, the “s-curves” have historically been the an area of largest concern. Since the bridge was built to alleviate issues due to road closures between Pea Island and Hatteras Island, current and future homeowners can expect many positive changes including:
- Locals who have evacuated may have an easier time returning to the island after a storm.
- Property owners who want to check on their home may be able to access the island following bad weather more quickly.
- Trucks may have an easier time transporting needed supplies onto the island following bad weather.
- Since ocean overwash and high winds can begin long before a storm is projected to arrive and cause partial lane closures, a bridge may help evacuation routes off the island be less congested.
- Owners with rental properties can assure their guests that construction noise will end as the bridge completion wraps up.