The December issue of Roads & Bridges featured the RS&H-designed Topsail Bridge, which links Topsail Island, a 26-mile long barrier island, to the North Carolina mainland.
According to RS&H Project Manager Chad Critcher, the bridge replaced a very popular swing span bridge but, there were many environmental, economic, and social factors the team had to consider when identifying the placement of the bridge. What grabbed the attention of Roads & Bridges was the enormous amount of public input solicited by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
“The public-input process was the most extensive in which we had ever been involved,” Critcher said.
Michelle James, NCDOT Project Manager, said that although there was a great deal of public sentiment to keep the new bridge in line with the historical character of the previous steel-truss swing span bridge, there was strong sentiment that the old bridge represented the unhurried and quaint coastal lifestyle of Topsail Island. In the end, she said, the fixed bridge was chosen to facilitate the undeniable growth in summer beach traffic.
After considering nearly 20 options that included various locations north and south of the existing bridge and alternative bridge designs, officials decided upon what was known as “Alternative 17,” a fixed bridge that cost $57 million.