Temporary NC 12 bridge keeps Hatteras moving

Posted August 28, 2012

— If tourists are the life blood of the Outer Banks economy, N.C. Highway 12 is the artery through which they flow – and a temporary bridge erected in the wake of Hurricane Irene has become the artificial heart that pumps them up and down the island.

Irene gashed Hatteras Island a year ago ripping holes in N.C. 12 and isolating the southern part of the island from the mainland.

About eight weeks and $10 million later, N.C. 12 reopened, courtesy of a metal bridge that was shipped to the area in sections and assembled.

"It's not the prettiest bridge, but it gets the job done, and I think that's what everybody wants in this case," said Pablo Hernandez, who supervised the project for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

The DOT could begin construction on a 2-mile permanent bridge as early as the first part of next year, Hernandez said.

Businesses on the island, such as Rodanthe Watersports, had a lot of rebuilding to do as well.

"(Irene) flooded everything out. This whole place was a mess. We just had to come in and redo it all," Norman Stresemann said.

The work has paid off, Stresemann said, noting that he now has 50 to 60 customers on a busy day.

Sally Hawthorne, who was vacationing on the Outer Banks with her extended family, said she was surprised at the speed of the recovery after Irene.

Temporary N.C. Highway 12 bridge NC 12 symbolic of Hatteras' rebuilding effort

"There's not a lot of evidence of devastation," Hawthorne said. "You can see the sand drifting from either side of the highway. Every now and then, you see some driftwood – pieces of plywood from houses – but other than that, it looks really nice."

At Waves Market & Deli in the town of Waves, the staff is seeing many tourists returning from last year. But what they are really watching is the weather – waiting for the next big storm.

"Hopefully, it won't flood the whole island out again, but we'll see," Nathan Stancil said.

Hernandez said he also keeps his eyes on the weather.

"I've been on the Outer Banks 14 years, and I pay attention to the weather. It always makes me nervous because anything can happen," he said.


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  • btneast Aug 28, 2012

    Thats pretty sad that all many people want to do is go down there and destroy the beach and wildlife

    ....why do you automatically ASSUME that those that wish to have access to the beach will destroy it? People have been driving on that beach since cars were invented....literally. It was the only "highway for a long long time.

  • btneast Aug 28, 2012

    I doubt if my road in Wake county washed out every couple of years that I could expect the taxpayers to spend $10 million to constantly fix it.

    ...if it generated the tax revenue the OBX generates, you better believe they would. The state is protecting its cash cow, not accomodating a handful of residents.

  • BigOski Aug 28, 2012

    Let's temporarily annex it to China. Let's say 3 years. They will certainly wipe the place clean from all these pesky birds and sea turtles.

  • tarheels512 Aug 28, 2012

    I must say that those of us who have a house on Hatteras Island and family that has been there for generations it's not about an unstable land mass/temp. bridge. We all know its an ever changing island however you dont uproot generations because the state doesnt want to spend money for a better bridge. As some have stated this area brings in large amounts of tourism revenue that help keep this state going. I drive this bridge every week and although its not the best in the world, it works. It will be great for a new permanent bridge and will help the tourism. All thats left is to get the NPS from ruining where we can enjoy the beach because of birds.

  • btneast Aug 28, 2012

    Here's an excert form the NC Dept of Commerce's website on WHY these coastal roads have to be kept open:

    Visitors traveling to and within the state of North Carolina spent a record $18 billion in 2011, supporting more than 40,000 North Carolina businesses and directly supporting nearly 200,000 jobs all across the state. State and local tax revenues generated as a result of visitor spending totals more than $1.5 billion annually. North Carolina ranks as the 6th most visited state in the United States.

  • Deb1003 Aug 28, 2012

    We've vacationed on Hatteras Island for years. Yes, it's a temporary bridge but I've crossed bridges worse in Wake County. When I was growing up, there were many wooden bridges, rickety and almost falling apart, and that was in NoVa. I will continue to support our state by vacationing on the Outer Banks. We have a wonderful treasure on our coast.

  • btneast Aug 28, 2012

    just park your car and walk cannot walk in bird closures either.

  • btneast Aug 28, 2012

    Why not toll the road/bridge during tourist season to pay for it?

    ....(sigh) obviously, some of you don't understand just how much money that area generates from tourism spending......way more than they get back from the state......which is why Dare County is considered a "donor" county for taxes. Keeping that road open is all about keeping the toursits there, NOT about the residents.

  • fayncmike Aug 28, 2012

    "it's President Obama and will continue to be till 2016. - comment

    yeah, FOUR MORE YEARS of this

    Thank goodness! I for one don't want to go back to starting wars of aggression, environmental suicide and fiscal irresponsibility.

  • BigOski Aug 28, 2012

    I travel to the OBX about 6-10 times a year. Make it a toll. I will still go but people should not just blow off the fact that the place is a net gain for the state coffers.
    I would love to here from some OBX haters what are their enjoyments in life. Wonder what OBX'ers subsidize in the form of taxes for your life's enjoyments.