Outer Banks “Jug Handle” Bridge to Open Soon

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outer banks rodanthe bridge curve view
The Rodanthe "jug handle" bridge on the Outer Banks will open to walkers, bikers and runners for a Community Day April 9 to celebrate the project's completion.

A new bridge to and from the Outer Banks will soon provide a long-term solution to part of the N.C. barrier islands’ main highway that has washed out over the years during major storms.

The N.C. Department of Transportation says the new 2.4-mile Rodanthe Bridge should open sometime in mid-April. Work is mostly done on the $154 million span over the Pamlico Sound. A community day, which includes running races, is set for April 9, before the bridge will open to vehicles.

“The Rodanthe Bridge is an important part of keeping N.C. 12 a reliable transportation corridor for Outer Banks residents and visitors,” says NCDOT Division 1 Engineer Sterling Baker. “The Community Day will be a great opportunity for everyone to celebrate its completion."

The span has been nicknamed the “Jug Handle” Bridge because of its shape. The bridge curves out over the sound parallel to the existing N.C. 12. It raises the future section of N.C. Highway 12 and sends it around the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. 

map of rodanthe jug handle bridge at outer banksNCDOT

Work began on the bridge in 2018. It is the second phase of the Bonner Bridge replacement. That project involved opening the 2.8-mile Marc Basnight Bridge over Oregon Inlet in 2019 and then the demolition of the old Bonner Bridge. The demolition was completed last year.

The Rodanthe Bridge will bypass a section on N.C. 12 known as the S-curves, which has breached during storms. The state got federal relief funding following Hurricane Sandy in 2013 to rebuild eroded beach as a temporary solution to the vulnerable highway. The Rodanthe Bridge is NCDOT’s long-term solution, the agency says.

Flatiron Constructors, based in Broomfield, Colorado, was the prime contractor on the Rodanthe Bridge. RK&K was the designer in partnership with Flatiron on the design-build contract.

The 107-span bridge required several challenging design features.

To protect the environment, Flatiron used its Advancing Rail System, which straddled the newly built bridge sections and could “leap frog temporary work sections,” the company says.

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The company also used precast piling, caps, girders, deck panels and other elements to protect against the Outer Banks’ harsh weather.

“In addition, the design-build process allowed design, environmental permits, utility relocation, and construction to take place under one contract,” the company says, which saved time.

RK&K says the design factored in wind speeds of 135 mph, boat collisions, wave forces and scour countermeasures, for a 100-year service life.