DOT, feds consider long-term solutions for Outer Banks highway
Posted December 15, 2011
Hatteras, N.C. — North Carolina transportation officials and federal regulators are considering long-term solutions for an Outer Banks highway that hurricanes have ripped through twice in eight years.
State Department of Transportation and officials from 13 regulatory agencies will meet Thursday to discuss options aimed at stabilizing N.C. Highway 12 for at least 50 years. N.C. 12 is a two-lane highway that links 200 miles of barrier islands and serves thousands of beach-going tourists each year.
Among the solutions being considered is elevating more than four miles of the highway onto bridges, DOT spokesman Steve Abbot said. That option would cost several hundred million dollars.
Any solution must also meet federal environmental regulations.
Hurricane Irene cut through N.C. 12 in two places on Aug. 29, blasting a new inlet through the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, south of Nags Head.
A team of engineers, riggers and laborers built a two-lane, 650-foot replacement bridge and pumped sand to fill in and repair other damage to the highway, letting it reopen on Oct. 10. The temporary bridge is expected to last for two years.
In 2003, Hurricane Isabel tore through part of N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island, also creating a new inlet. It took two months to fill in the inlet and rebuild the highway.