William B. Umstead Bridge

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William B. Umstead Bridge
Coordinates35°55′07″N 75°44′57″W / 35.91855°N 75.74911°W / 35.91855; -75.74911Coordinates: 35°55′07″N 75°44′57″W / 35.91855°N 75.74911°W / 35.91855; -75.74911
Carries US 64
CrossesCroatan Sound
LocaleDare County
Other name(s)Dare County Bridge 9
Croatan Sound Bridge
Old Manns Harbor Bridge
Named forWilliam B. Umstead
Maintained byNCDOT
DesignSteel stringer
Total length14,265.8 feet (4,348.2 m)
Width26.6 feet (8.1 m)
Clearance below44.9 feet (13.7 m)
Daily traffic1,800 (as of 2012)

The William B. Umstead Bridge is a two-lane automobile bridge spanning the Croatan Sound, between Manns Harbor and Roanoke Island, in Dare County, North Carolina. The bridge carries US 64 and is utilized by local and seasonal tourist traffic. The bridge speed limit is 55 miles per hour (89 km/h), except during the months of July and August when it will drop to 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) during dusk and dawn; the west end of the bridge becomes home of more than hundred-thousand purple martins as they prepare for their annual migration to Brazil.[3]

The bridge is dedicated to William B. Umstead, who was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a U.S. Senator and the 63rd Governor of North Carolina.


Plans for a bridge to connect the North Carolina mainland with Roanoke Island started in the 1920s, when local developers wanted to make the Outer Banks a tourist destination. However, because of the high cost, the State Highway Commission focused their funds on improving the primary highway system. As a result, the local businessmen took matters into their own hands and formed private toll-bridge companies; building Roanoke Sound Bridge in 1928 and the Wright Memorial Bridge in 1930.[4] By around 1940, free ferry service was available between Manns Harbor and Manteo.[5]

By the 1950s, the Outer Banks eventually became a tourist destination and the State Highway Commission began taking an increasingly active role in the area. In 1955 Dare County Bridge 9 was built and was dedicated to William B. Umstead on August 2, 1956.[1][6] In 1966, the bridge was rehabilitated.[2]

In 2002, the bridge was bypassed by a larger, more modern bridge, the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge to the south, which provides a more direct access to Bodie Island by connecting directly to the Washington Baum Bridge between Roanoke and Bodie Islands; traffic using the Virginia Dare Bridge no longer needs to go through Manteo to reach the Outer Banks.

The two-lane bridge initially carried US 64 and US 264; in September 2003, US 264 was removed.[7]

Purple martins have used beams under the bridge as a roost during July and August since it opened, and many have died when drivers crossed the bridge during the times of the birds' greatest activity. In 2007, the Coastal Carolina Purple Martin Society asked that the bridge's speed limit be reduced from 55 MPH to 20 MPH at dawn and dusk when the birds are swarming. Making the change has significantly reduced the number of bird deaths.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Uglybridges.com: US 64 over Croatan Sound". Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Bridgehunter.com: William B. Umstead Memorial Bridge". Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  3. ^ "Umstead Bridge Speed Limit Lowered to Protect Roosting Birds" (Press release). Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Department of Transportation. July 3, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  4. ^ "NCDOT: History of Bridge Building in NC". North Carolina Department of Transportation. June 2013. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  5. ^ North Carolina Primary Highway System (PDF) (Map). Cartography by NCDOT. North Carolina State Highway and Public Works Commission. 1940. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  6. ^ "North Carolina Memorial Highways and other Named Facilities" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  7. ^ "Route Change (2003-09-15)" (PDF). North Carolina Department of Transportation. September 15, 2003. Retrieved June 21, 2015.
  8. ^ Stradling, Richard (July 5, 2019). "With so many birds around this NC bridge, the speed limit dropped from 55 to 20 mph". News & Observer. Retrieved July 6, 2019.