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Outer Banks will soon open second bridge to skirt flooded route

A screenshot from 2013 at Mirlo Beach near Rodanthe shows the surf advancing on N.C. 12.

A bridge that will allow locals and tourists to avoid a perennially washed-out route on North Carolina’s Outer Banks is set to open to traffic this month.

People will be able to walk, bike and run across the 2.4-mile Rodanthe Bridge on Saturday ahead of its opening, The News & Observer reports.

The $154 million bridge will take North Carolina Highway 12 over Pamlico Sound, bypassing the south end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and part of the road that’s often washed over by the ocean during storms. Construction on the project — known as the “jug handle bridge” because of how it sticks out over the water — started in 2018.

A group of property owners and residents sued in federal court to try to stop the bridge from being built, arguing the environmental impacts weren’t thoroughly weighed and a popular wind-surfing spot would be affected.

The Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, however, sided with the North Carolina Department of Transportation. While the bridge took nearly 3 acres (1.2 hectares) from the refuge, about 19 acres (7.7 hectares) will be restored where part of the existing highway will be removed.

Environmental groups actually pushed for a longer bridge, but the transportation department said it would be too expensive. Two bridges were built instead. The $252 million, 2.8-mile (4.5-kilometer) Marc Basnight Bridge over Oregon Inlet opened in February 2019.

Saturday’s “community day” at the Rodanthe Bridge will include 5-mile (8-kilometer) and 5K (3-mile) races. Part of the bridge will be opened to walkers and cyclists from 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

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