Raleigh - It was quite an eventful year for the N.C. Department of Transportation in the 14 counties that encompass Division 1. The department began construction on Bonner Bridge after resolving decades of legal and other delays, made progress some of the largest ongoing projects in the state, and responded to damage from three major storms that hit the area.
Governor Pat McCrory joined Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson and other local, state and federal officials to break ground on the new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge at a historic ceremony on March 8.
Construction started in three areas: at the south end approach, north end approach and navigational spans. Once the north and south approaches are completed, work will begin on the sections that will connect each end with the high-rise portion, also known as the navigation zone. The bridge is being constructed in five different zones.
This high-rise portion of the new bridge will be approximately 3,500 feet long and have seven navigation spans. Each span will average about 300 feet in width. Comparatively, the existing bridge provides for only one navigational span with an opening of 130 feet.
To date, more than 100 pilings have been driven, and ten piers, are nearly completed. The bridge will have a total of 673 pilings. The new bridge is scheduled to open to traffic in November 2018.
"I know that 2016 will be long remembered as the year NCDOT kicked off work on the new and historic Bonner Bridge project," division engineer Jerry Jennings said.
Another part of the overall Bonner Bridge project is occurring on the Pea Island portion of N.C. 12.
The Pea Island Interim Bridge will replace a temporary metal bridge that was built to restore traffic flow following a breach caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Significant progress has been made on the new bridge since construction began in March 2016. Recently, crews have been working to remove pavement from the roadway so that construction of the bridge's approach can begin. The bridge is expected to be completed by late spring of 2017.
A third bridge, further south in Rodanthe, is still in development, but reached several key milestones in its planning phase this year.
On May 24, NCDOT's revised Environmental Assessment was approved by the Federal Highway Administration. It identified the 2014B Bridge on New Location Alternative as the preferred option for a long-term solution to breaches of N.C. 12 in the Rodanthe area.
This option involves building a 2.4-mile bridge -known as a "jug handle" -that extends from the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge over the Pamlico Sound into Rodanthe.
In December, the Federal Highway Administration issued a Record of Decision, the final environmental document required, for that project. NCDOT can now begin the process of awarding a contract for design and construction.
In late June, crews removed the last of the orange safety barrels from the U.S. 158/Elizabeth Street Bridge in Elizabeth City, marking the completion of the final phase of the rehabilitation project and opening the bridge to full traffic flow. The project, which began in 2011, included the rehabilitation of two bridges that cross the Pasquotank River.
No single event had more impact on motorists this year than the widespread destruction of roads and other transportation infrastructure caused by flooding from Hurricane Matthew when it hit in early October. At the height of the flooding, numerous primary and secondary routes were closed throughout the region. Crews immediately began assessments and repairs where possible, and opened roads as soon as it was safe to do so. Most pavement damage, with the exception of 11 roads that had more extensive damage, was repaired quickly.
Hurricane Matthew was preceded by widespread flooding and road closures caused by tropical storms Hermine and Julia in September. In addition to damage and debris, the storms also prompted stories of heroism.
Three employees from Bertie County Maintenance received the Transportation Department’s Extra Mile Award for rescuing a woman who was trapped in rising floodwaters during Julia. Transportation Secretary Nick Tennyson presented the award to William Audrey Creech, Marty Lee Jernigan and Stacy Allen Mizelle at the Board of Transportation’s meeting on Dec. 1 in Raleigh.
“Our crews were courageous and persistent this fall, as they worked to re-open roads closed by flooding from three separate major storms,” Jennings added. “I applaud their efforts and I look forward to another banner year of progress in state transportation in 2017.”
In 2017, significant progress on the Bonner Bridge is expected to continue, and the Pea Island Interim Bridge is scheduled to be open in late April. The final phases of development for the Rodanthe Bridge project will also move forward, with construction expected to begin in early 2018.