Judge clears the way for new Outer Banks bridge

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NEW BERN, N.C. (WRAL) — A federal judge on Monday dismissed an environmental group’s challenge to a planned bridge at the Outer Banks to replace a flood-prone section of N.C. Highway 12.

U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan’s ruling clears the way for construction to begin on the 2.4-mile bridge over Pamlico Sound between the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and Rodanthe on Hatteras Island.

Save Our Sound OBX claimed the state Department of Transportation pushed for the “jug handle” bridge without considering the environmental consequences, feasible alternatives or the effects on historically significant properties.

Flanagan reviewed the bridge design process and determined that engineers had tried to minimize impacts on the wildlife refuge and on homes and businesses in Rodanthe. Engineers also were within their right to reject beach nourishment as an alternative to building the bridge, she ruled.

DOT last year awarded a design-build contract to Flatiron Constructors for the bridge, and construction is expected to take about two and a half years.

Once construction is complete, the portion of N.C. 12 in the wildlife refuge will be removed and the land returned to the refuge. In Rodanthe, the roadway will remain to provide access to private properties.

Crews have been working for two years on a replacement for the Bonner Bridge linking Hatteras Island to the mainland over Oregon Inlet.

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