Jug Handle Bridge at Rodanthe Is Taking Shape

A 155' piling being delivered to the Rodanthe side of the Jug Handle bridge project.
A 155′ piling being delivered to the Rodanthe side of the Jug Handle bridge project.

If all goes as planned, sometime next year, probably close to summer, the Jug Handle Bridge that will by pass the S Curves just north of Rodanthe will have its ribbon cutting.

The S Curves, just north of Rodanthe, is one of the most dynamic areas of Pea Island.

There have been one or two glitches along the way, but fur the most part the project is pretty close to being on schedule.

The two biggest glitches were Hurricane Dorian. That’s a weather glitch and weather is by far the biggest concern of project managers.

The other glitch was a problem with the concrete pilings that will support the bridge.

The problem has been corrected, by back in December inspectors noticed minute cracks were developing in the pilings. Luckily the problem was noticed quickly, although one of the defective pilings had been driven. That piling has been removed—a very difficult process.

The bridge is being built from the north and south simultaneously. It was on the north end that the defective pilings effected. As a consequence, the north end is running a little behind the south end that is coming from Rodanthe.

The process of building the bridge is remarkable for how straightforward the process is, yet how critical each component is coordinated.

Because the bridge is designed to have a 100 year lifespan, the pilings have to be driven deep beneath the waters of the Pamlico Sound. The pilings for the main part of the bridge are 155’ long and since the bridge will be about 25’ above the surface of the water, the pilings are being driven 130’.

The cranes and gantries the handle the pilings were custom built in Italy and watching them place the pilings is like witnessing a very slow moving dance of remarkable intricacy. 

We’ll file more reports on the progress of the Jug Handle Bridge from time to time as it continues it trek across the Pamlico Sound.

There is always something interesting happening on the Outer Banks. Book your stay with Joe Lamb, Jr. & Associates and discover what life on a sandbar is all about.

New Pea Island Bridge Named for Richard Etheridge

From NCDOT. Getting ready to remove the old bridge with the Richard Etheridge Bridge next to it.
From NCDOT. Getting ready to remove the old bridge with the Richard Etheridge Bridge next to it.

New Bridge Opens on Pea Island

Even though it opened for traffic a little while ago, the Richard Etheridge Bridge down on Pea Island had its official naming yesterday.

When Hurricane Irene created a new inlet just north of New Inlet on Pea Island, NCDOT moved quickly to get a temporary bridge in place. Yes, it looked like a tinker toy, but they had it in place and open for traffic in six weeks.

It performed as advertised for six-and-a-half years, although traffic had to slow way down to cross it.

It was never going to be a permanent solution, and everyone knew it.

The new span, the Richard Etheridge Bridge, is almost twice as long—663’ vs 1100’—and beautifully engineered. It is not, however, going to be the permanent solution.

This bridge has a planned lifespan of 25 years, and the long-range strategy calls for it to be replaced with a bridge probably somewhere to the west.

Who Was Richard Etheridge

Naming the bridge for Richard Etheridge is appropriate.

Etheridge was the captain of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station from the 1880s through the 1890s.

The Pea Island Lifesaving Station was the only all African American crew in the Lifesaving Service and was consistently rated as one of the best on the Outer Banks.

He was a slave when he was born in 1842 on Roanoke Island. Although it cannot be confirmed, circumstantial evidence suggests that his father was John B. Etheridge, his owner.

When Northern forces captured Roanoke Island, he was freed and quickly enlisted in the Union Army, rising to the rank of sergeant.

In the 1870s the Lifesaving Service, the predecessor to the US Coast Guard, was hiring local watermen who understood the environment around them. Etheridge became Surfman #6 at Bodie Island, the lowest rank and the only rank an African American was permitted at that time.

Nonetheless, his work was noted with one inspector writing, “…one of the best surfmen on this part of the coast of North Carolina.”

Promoted to command the Pea Island Station, he was noted for expecting his crew to be the best. His expectations paid off when the schooner E.S. Newman ran aground on Pea Island.

He and his turfmen rescued the captain, the captain’s wife, their three-year-old child and all six crewmen in a hurricane so powerful it had overwashed Pea Island.

It took a while but in 1996 President Clinton awarded the Coast Guard’s Gold Lifesaving Medal posthumously to the descendents of the crew.

When Hurricane Irene created a new inlet, it also exposed the remains of the Pea Island Station water tower, indicating how close to the bridge named for Richard Etheridge is to the station.

Bonner Bridge Replacement Update

Artist's rendering of the Jug Handle, Bonner Bridge project.
Artist’s rendering of the Jug Handle, Bonner Bridge project.

The replacement for the Bonner Bridge has always been the big cog in the wheel to improve the transportation corridor through Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Other pieces of the puzzle are coming together as well, and things are really getting busy as the road project takes shape. 

The Big News

The big new coming from NCDOT is that a contract has been awarded for the Jug Handle that will bypass the S Curves. The S Curves, just north of Rodanthe has, in the past, been prone to flooding and ocean overwash.

A beach nourishment project completed last year seems to be holding the ocean back for the time being. There is, however, wide consensus that beach nourishment is a temporary fix.

The Jug Handle is aptly named; swinging west about a mile north of Rodanthe, the road will cross the marsh on the soundside and extend into Pamlico Sound coming back to NC12 just north of the Island Convenience store.

The winning bid was for $145 million. The scheduled completion date is 2020.

New Inlet Replacement Almost Complete

Opened by Hurricane Irene, the breach just north of New Inlet has been crossed by a temporary bridge since December of 2011. Although the breach filled in with a year, the area is considered unstable and prone to ocean overwash and flooding.

A more permanent replacement bridge is almost completed. NCDOT is confident it will be open by the original estimate of April of this year.

Unlike the Bonner Bridge Replacement and Jug Handle, which are projected to have 100 year life spans, the New Inlet bridge will have a 25 year lifespan while a more permanent solution is researched.

Bonner Bridge Replacement

Pouring decking on the Bonner Bridge in January.
Pouring decking on the Bonner Bridge in January.

Slated to be open for traffic in the fall of 2018, according to NCDOT the project remains on target.

NCDOT is reporting decking is being poured on areas of the bridge that are nearing completion.

Construction is moving from the north and south simultaneously. The final piece of the puzzle will be the high-rise portion of the bridge, designed with seven navigational spans to give boat traffic options the original Bonner Bridge does not.