NC Bridge Opening Delayed by Paint Equipment
Resulting from a series of issues, including the discovery of substandard pavement markings, equipment breakdowns and the hiring of a new line painting contractor, the anticipated opening of the Rodanthe Bridge in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is still reportedly delayed.
The structure, which has been years in the making by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), intends to bypass the infamous Highway 12 S-turns and improve access to Hatteras Island.
About the Bridge
Stating back in 2017, NCDOT awarded Flatiron Construction a $145 million design-build contract to elevate a portion of Highway 12 along a new 2.4-mile span. The existing structure reportedly serves as the sole thruway for several communities strung along the state’s Outer Banks region and is also a tourist destination for those visiting the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Although a popular roadway, Highway 12 is noted to be prone to erosion, washouts, flooding, traffic and marooning residents—hence the replacement project.
The new “jug handle” structure, dubbed Rodanthe Bridge, was designed by Flatiron, in partnership with designer RK&K. The bridge elevates Highway 12 above the Pamlico Sound, redirecting the thruway from its current path along the sandy barrier islands to the span above the waterway—west of the Outer Banks and the Atlantic Ocean.
From north to south, the bridge arcs westward and then eastward, giving it the “jug handle” shape. By extending the structure into the Pamlico Sound, Flatiron notes that the design minimized the impact to sensitive environmental areas and ocean and sound shoreline on the islands, as well as to the community of Rodanthe.
According to reports, construction on the project officially launched in January 2018 with a completion date eyed for October 2021.
While officials wouldn’t host a grand opening for the Rodanthe Bridge until just three months ago, primarily due to faulty expansion joints and weather issues, state transportation representatives are blaming the current holdup on poor-quality pavement markings.
Several weeks after opening the bridge to walkers, runners and cyclists, in June, NCDOT reported that the pavement markings on the roadway failed to meet the Department’s “specifications for quality and reflectivity.”
Traffic markings are made up of a special paint containing tiny glass beads that reflect light from a vehicle’s headlights. When a contractor brought in a machine to measure the paint’s reflectivity, it reportedly failed to meet the state’s requirements.
At the time, NCDOT spokesman Tim Hass told reporters he wasn’t sure if the paint or the application equipment caused the markings to fail inspection.
“But whatever it was, it wasn’t reflecting enough light that we felt comfortable with it,” he said. “Because there’s no lights on that bridge, and when people are going over at night, you want them to be able to see the lane markings.”
According to The Virginian-Pilot, the paint markings were the final step before the $154 million bridge could open to traffic. As a result of the failed inspection, Flatiron was asked to hire another subcontractor to restripe the bridge and both approaches.
At the end of that same month, it was reported that Flatiron had brought on T.M.I. Services Inc. (Graham, North Carolina) to remediate the issue. According to the new subcontractor, the state transportation agency’s marking truck needed a new nozzle head and distribution fixture.
After pinpointing the issue, T.M.I. reported that it would have to remove the faulty markings with a large street sweeper-like machine. The equipment would then scarify the surface and pull up small amounts of concrete and/or asphalt along with the old paint. In harder-to-reach places, T.M.I. said that it would utilize an eradicator.
At the time, it was estimated to take two days to remove the old paint and one full day to mark the Rodanthe Bridge, weather permitting.
However, by mid-July it was announced that the opening of the bridge remained delayed, this time due to the breakdown of the paint truck. According to The Coastland Times, the paint vehicle would not go into reverse or drive and was also experiencing a minor leak in the paint unit.
Under the contract with Flatiron and NCDOT, T.M.I. was provided an opportunity to cure the problem. In lieu of the breakdown, Flatiron was reportedly looking into legal avenues.
Reports went on to note that only eight or nine road painting contractors are pre-qualified with NCDOT; however, only half of the contractors have able equipment to complete the long-line painting required for the Rodanthe Bridge.
Most recently, it was announced that Flatiron brought on a new subcontractor to complete the line painting work, Oglesby Construction (Norwalk, Ohio).
On July 19, work seemed to be pressing forward. Reports indicated that initial test stripes required minor adjustments, but afterwards, the paint was reported to be the right thickness, the stripe measured the proper width and crews were able to complete the center yellow line on the structure and approaches.
The Oglesby crew also painted the white northbound lane edge that day.
When working on the southbound lane markings the following day, however, the painting crew noticed that the traffic coatings were not drying and stopped almost immediately rather than continuing. Only about 40 feet of white line was painted and has since been removed.
Onsite crews suspect that the issue was related to a pump for the catalyst that goes in the paint.
After sending the equipment to be repaired and tested, it was slated that work would resume on July 26.
After the coatings work is completed, NCDOT plans to have New River Electrical pull new transmission cables for the structure. The Department hopes to complete the cable pull by the fall, with the energizing of the lines following towards the end of 2022.