Since most of Sunset Beach and the adjoining Bird Island coastal reserve encompass a barrier island, the only way to get there from the mainland is by crossing a pontoon bridge (swing bridge) straddling the Intracoastal Waterway and adjacent marshland. It is a wooden structure than can only hold one lane of traffic at any given time, and is the only one of its kind still in use along the East Coast. While this does cause headaches for those trying to get on or off the island, many locals say the bridge does give the town a more relaxed feel. Historically, this has been in stark contrast to the rapid growth affecting other beach communities along the Grand Strand. However, the NCDOT started construction to replace the old bridge with a modern, 65' high arc bridge (non-draw, non-swing) in March 2008. The full project is scheduled to be completed by December 2010, but it is possible that the bridge will open to traffic by Summer 2010. The new bridge will eliminate the need for a bridge keeper, and will provide for a continual flow of vehicle traffic on and off the island, and water traffic on the Intracoastal Waterway.