Rodanthe residents protest bridge proposal

Liz Kilmer/WAVY

RODANTHE, N.C. (WAVY) — A group of Rodanthe citizens protested outside of a public meeting on Tuesday to voice concerns about a proposed bridge.

“Save our sound,” shouted the small group in unison, referring to the Pamlico Sound.

The N.C. Department of Transportation is proposing to build a 2.4 mile long “jug handle” bridge through the sound, from the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge into Rodanthe.

“Some of the most beautiful views in the United States are going to be destroyed by this massive bridge that they want to put in,” said Rick Shaftan, Rodanthe resident.

It’s a project that’s been years in the making, meant to create a long-term solution to keeping vulnerable N.C. 12 open amidst looming threats of storm damage.

Earlier proposals involved elevating the road where it currently is, but NCDOT ultimately presented the jug handle option as the preferred alternative.

“The bridge in the sound is more protected, it’s further away from the forces of the ocean… for us, that’s attractive,” said Brian Yamamoto, NCDOT Engineering Supervisor. “If we were to elevate the road on existing N.C. 12 we think it would be subject to ocean forces in the relative near future.”

Yamamoto added that taking the jug handle approach would result in less travel woes during the construction phase.

But some aren’t convinced.

“It’s a taxpayer rip off,” shouted Mark Haines in protest.

“What we’re looking for is something smaller, a fraction of the cost,” said Shaftan, who believes the proposal is catering to environmental activists.

The jug handle bridge minimizes impact on the surrounding Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

A year ago, NCDOT reached a settlement agreement with conservation groups that were suing the department to protect the land.

Part of the agreement involved NCDOT presenting the jug handle as the preferred alternative.

“The idea is to keep people off the island and put the so-called rights of animals and seaweed and plants ahead of real people who have real lives,” said Shaftan. “The Southern Environmental Law Center and the environmental kooks want to go put this in the sound and destroy what we have here in Rodanthe.”

According to Yamamoto, the jug handle approach has been a considered option for more than 10 years. He told 10 On Your Side that they’ve heard from citizens strongly in favor.

The settlement agreement does not force NCDOT to ultimately go with the jug handle.

Yamamoto said that public comment will play a large role in the ultimate decision, which is up to the Federal Highway Administration.

He calls the jug handle alternative a fair compromise.

“Any time you build a large-scale project you have to compromise between the different resources that you’re impacting. People, certainly, is huge for NCDOT but we also have to get permits to  build our projects and that has us look at animals, plants and other historic resources… a long list of things.”

The project is estimated to cost $179.3 million and $198.3 million. It is part of a bigger plan to replace the Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet.

Tuesday’s public meeting was held at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Center. A final meeting is scheduled for Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Dare County Administration Building.

Comments will be accepted through July 15.

Hard copies of meeting maps and the environmental assessment are available for review online and at the following locations:

  • Dare County Planning and Inspections Satellite Office, 50347 N.C. 12, Frisco
  • NCDOT Resident Engineer’s Office, 349 Waterplant Road, Unit B, Manteo
  • Dare County Library, 700 U.S. 64/264, Manteo
  • Dare County Library, 57709 N.C. 12, Hatteras
  • Dare County Library, 400 Mustian St., Kill Devil Hills
  • Fessenden Recreation Center, 46830 N.C. 12, Buxton
  • Ocracoke School and Community Library, 225 Back Road, Ocracoke

If you’re looking for more information, you can call 866-803-0529 or send an email to publicinvolvement2@ncdot.gov. You may also contact Drew Joyner, P.E., with NCDOT’s Human Environment Section, at 919-707-6077 or by mail at:

1598 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1598

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