Call a Cab — of Sorts — to Get By Busted Roadway

Reprinted from the Island Free Press

N.C. 12 to Reopen by Christmas

Reprinted from the Island Free Press

N.C. Department of Transportation officials said last week that the preferred short-term solution to repairing N.C. 12 at the so-called S-curves in northern Rodanthe will be replacing sandbags and dunes and repairing the highway where it was before it was damaged by Hurricane Sandy and a series of northeasters.

If weather and tides cooperate, the work will be finished on or before Christmas Day, said Pablo Hernandez, resident construction engineer on the project.

He added that DOT is also pursuing with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers re-nourishment of the beach at the S-curves.  The corps, he said, is taking the lead on that project, separately from DOT efforts to replace the road.

Also, he said, DOT is concurrently preparing plans to move the highway to the west and add a short bridge around the troublesome area of the S-curves in case that option is needed later before there is a long-term solution to stabilizing the road there.

According to a news release, DOT crews are now working on the temporary solution to reconnect all traffic on Hatteras Island to points north of Mirlo Beach. This multi-step process includes installing sandbags, reconstructing the dunes and rebuilding the road.

Crews are currently placing 15-foot-long sandbags along a four tenths of a mile section of highway at the S-curves. In all, crews will place 1,800 new sandbags to create a protective barrier between the ocean and the road. Once the sandbags are in place, crews will rebuild the dunes on top of the sandbags.

At the same time, crews are also removing broken pavement from this section of the road. After sandbags are installed at the most heavily damaged parts of the highway, crews will begin rebuilding the road where it was located before the series of storms hit.

Until the road reopens, four-wheel-drive vehicles must continue to pass through checkpoints at the temporary bridge on Pea Island and at Mirlo Beach to travel between Hatteras Island and the mainland.

BUXTON — Until recently, residents and visitors traveling to and from Hatteras Island in two-wheel drive vehicles had just one transportation option — ride the ferries.

For visitors, this tacks on three or four hours—sometimes many more—to an already time-consuming trip, and for residents, it made off-island travel for doctor appointments, work, school, or other errands extremely difficult.

But in early November, two-wheel drivers caught a break.

Jarvis Williams, who owns Cape Point Exxon in Buxton and who was contracted by the N.C. Department of Transportation to remove any vehicles that got stuck on the newly opened four-wheel-drive only access route, got the idea to start trailering two-wheel-drive cars and trucks across the sand road.

It’s a simple idea, really, and not surprisingly, it has been quite well received. When you’re in a hurry, a 15-minute ride over land beats a three-hour trip across the sound, and an on-demand sand taxi beats an hours-long ferry line any day of the week—even if you have to pay for the convenience.

In fact, the service has been so popular, that on a single day during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Williams and his crew towed 86 cars across the quarter-mile long sand road.

It wasn’t long before that kind of demand necessitated an increase in supply.

Scott Caldwell, who owns Island Convenience in Rodanthe, started towing cars over Thanksgiving weekend when he saw how many people wanted—and needed—to use the service.

“There were cars lined up from Hot Tuna to the [emergency] ferry dock,” he said, all of which were waiting to be towed across the sand.

Three businesses on Hatteras Island will load two-wheel-drive cars on trailers and tax them across the the broken up section of N.C. 12 that is now open to only four-wheel drives. Photo: Don Bowers, Island Free Press.

Eric Stump, who owns Island Cruisers, a four-by-four rentals operation in Rodanthe, also got in on the action, spurred on by phone calls from people who wanted to rent his four-wheel drive vehicles in order to cross the sand road.

All three have reputable, established and fully-insured towing businesses that have long operated on the island. And though traffic has decreased considerably since the holiday weekend, Williams, Caldwell, and Stump are still plenty busy.

And since N.C. 12 will not be repaired until at least Christmas, it seems likely that they will remain so.

All three charge $25 per trip, and all three operate seven days a week, from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. — the only times during which the sand road is open.

In addition, all three offer both on-demand and reservation-style services.

So, you can give one of them a call when you’re ready to cross the road, or, if you know in advance when you’ll need to cross, you can arrange for someone to meet you on a specific date at a specific time.

All southbound travelers are picked up at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service parking lot, which is just south of the checkpoint and the temporary bridge over Pea Island Inlet.

Northbound travelers will be picked up at different places depending on which company is providing the service.

Caldwell will meet customers at Island Convenience, and Stump will pick up his customers at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building. Williams will meet his customers near the Midgett Realty building in Rodanthe, just south of the checkpoint station.

Caldwell can be reached at either 252- 216-5733 or 252- 987-2239. Stump can be reached at 252-987-2097 or 252-202-8399. Williams can be reached at 252-475-4285.

About the Author

Jordan Tomberlin

Jordan Tomberlin is a freelance writer for the "Island Free Press," an online newspaper on the Outer Banks. She is a 2007 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she studied English and art history and this year got a master's in education from East Carolina University. She lives on Hatteras Island.