Outer Banks’ “Jug Handle Bridge” Now Open

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new jug handle bridge opens at outer banks curving out over oregon inlet bypassing pea island national wildlife refuge
The new "Jug Handle" bridge on the Outer Banks curves out over Pamlico Sound bypassing a flood-prone section of N.C. 12.

The “Jug Handle Bridge” has finally opened at the Outer Banks of North Carolina to provide a safer route around part of the barrier islands’ flood-prone main highway.

The 2.4-mile bridge at Rodanthe officially opened July 28. It extends out over Pamlico Sound at the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. It bypasses a section of N.C. Highway 12 that is often flooded by a rising ocean during storms. The North Carolina Department of Transportation plans to remove the highway and let nature reclaim the area. NCDOT expects to finish the road removal by the end of November.

The $155 million project to build the new bridge began in July 2018. The span was nicknamed the “Jug Handle” Bridge because of its shape. The bridge curves out over the sound parallel to the existing highway. It raises N.C. 12 and sends it around the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

It marks 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 state got federal relief funding following Hurricane Sandy in 2013 to rebuild eroded beach as a temporary solution to the vulnerable N.C. 12 section known as the “S curves.” 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.