Christmas arrived early on Dec. 19 for residents of Hatteras Island in the form of a reopened State Route 12, which was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in late October.

Although the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is accustomed to fast-tracking repairs to the barrier island’s sole highway link to the mainland, high surf from a series of offshore storms repeatedly complicated efforts to shore up a .4-mile stretch of highway just north of the village of Rodanthe, known locally as the “S Curves.”

(Regular readers of this blog will recall that this area has experienced severe coastal erosion over the past several years, resulting in frequent overwash conditions and pavement damage.)

Weather conditions finally improved long enough for work crews to install enough protective sandbags alongside the existing right of way so that the S Curves could be fully regraded and paved. Though Route 12 is now open to all traffic (a temporary 4-wheel drive only route had been available for several weeks), NCDOT will continue building up the protective dune, essentially the only thing separating the S Curves from the Atlantic Ocean.

Conceding that Mother Nature has the upper hand in its eons-old assault on this area, the agency is assessing long-term repair options such as elevating the troublesome S Curves section within the existing right of way, or building a bypassing it with a 2.5-mile bridge that would extend into Pamlico Sound and reconnect with existing Route 12 in a more stable part of Rodanthe.

There is currently no timetable for rendering a decision. But if the still-simmering controversy over the Bonner Bridge replacement project is any indication, the resolution is unlikely to be peaceful.

A sign for a subdivision of vacation homes adjacent to the S Curves has long enticed prospective buyers with the message, “Dare to Dream the Impossible Dream.” NCDOT and Hatteras Island residents can now dare to dream that this latest repair to Route 12 will last long enough for a more permanent solution to be implemented.