‘Jug handle’ bridge in Rodanthe. Kerry Hooper photo.

On Tuesday, the Ocracoke Observer posted a story from the Outer Banks Voice reporting on concerns that energy and communications infrastructure to Hatteras and Ocracoke could be endangered once the protections and road are removed from the S Curve area as part of the ‘Jug Handle’ Bridge project. 

Today, the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative (CHEC) announced an agreement had been reached to delay that removal.

The following Feb. 23 release was posted on the CHEC website:

After recent negotiations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the Cape Hatteras Electric Cooperative, has agreed to accommodate the delayed removal of a roadbed and sandbags along a 1.8 mile stretch of NC Highway 12 that will be bypassed by the new Rodanthe Bridge.

This stretch of road traverses the Outer Banks’ Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The agencies have evaluated flexibilities and have found a workable scenario that allows for this delay until the end of the 2022 hurricane season. The road removal was originally slated for completion this spring.

“Delaying this removal until Nov. 30 will give CHEC both protection and access to its existing transmission lines that provide electricity to all of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands,” said Susan Flythe, CHEC General Manager and EVP. “It will also provide protection and access to the fiber optic cable owned by Lumen Technologies, which is buried in the easement from USFWS and provides internet and communications for the islands.”

“The Service is pleased to be able to offer this solution for CHEC to help ensure access to this critical infrastructure while cable installation on the bridge is completed,” said Rebekah Martin, Project Leader of the Coastal North Carolina National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Because this will be an active work area, vehicular public access to the old road will be prohibited to ensure public safety.

The north end will be secured with a locked gate. Initially, approximately 200 to 500 feet of asphalt will be removed on the southern end. All asphalt and sandbags will be removed by Nov. 30.

CHEC and NCDOT will also work to expedite the schedule to install the cable, hanger and conduit system on the new bridge.

CHEC is currently working to install a new transmission line on the Rodanthe bridge and originally expected to complete the project by the end of this year.

With the expedited schedule allowing CHEC to continue on-bridge work through the summer, the new line will be installed in a timely manner that coincides with the removal of the current roadway and sandbags at the end of hurricane season.

Once traffic is shifted onto the bridge, the continued work to install the utility equipment will require minor traffic delays during daylight hours.

Updates on the timing of delays will be available at DriveNC.gov.