NCDOT closes Bonner Bridge due to ‘immediate safety concerns’

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DARE COUNTY, N.C. — The N.C. Department of Transportation has closed the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet on N.C. 12 along the Outer Banks today due to “immediate safety concerns.”

Routine sonar scanning of the bridge identified scouring concerns, or areas where too much sand has eroded from the support structure of the bridge. As NCDOT crews continued to monitor these conditions, inspections revealed additional areas of concern, which led department officials to decide to close the bridge immediately for the safety of all residents and visitors of the area.

The bridge will remain closed until the department can bring in additional resources to inspect the bridge and make necessary repairs to fortify the structure.

NCDOT has declared a state of emergency as a way of expediting the process and steps are already underway to begin repair work as soon as possible.

Captdsure “Closing the Bonner Bridge is necessary to keep all travelers safe, but we know it will have a devastating effect on the people who live along and visit the Outer Banks,” said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. “We will work to safely reopen this vital lifeline quickly, and hope to be able to begin construction on a new bridge as soon as possible.”

NCDOT is working closely leaders, emergency workers and other officials to keep the public informed throughout the process.

The Bonner Bridge is the only highway access for vehicles between Hatteras Island and the mainland. Until it is safe to reopen, The NCDOT Ferry Division will provide emergency support to move people and cars across the Pamlico Sound.

All tolls currently in place on the Ocracoke-Swan Quarter and Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry routes will be waived for residents, emergency personnel and vendors while the bridge is closed and the emergency ferry route is in operation. The U.S. Coast Guard is also currently on standby.

Capturfdse“We expect the emergency ferry route to be up and running Wednesday morning,” said Ferry Division Deputy Director Jed Dixon. “We know the residents of Hatteras Island are depending on us to be their lifeline, and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

At full capacity on a full schedule, the route can ferry 760 single cars a day, 380 from each side. A detailed emergency ferry route schedule will be available on the Ferry division website.

For decades, NCDOT has known the Bonner Bridge stands on borrowed time and needs to be replaced. NCDOT awarded a contract to a design-build team to replace the bridge in August 2011.

Design work began immediately and construction of the replacement bridge was originally set to begin in early 2013. All work is currently on hold following a series of legal challenges by the Southern Environmental law center on behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuge Association.

On Sept. 16, NCDOT received a favorable ruling in the federal lawsuit filed by the SELC when Judge Louise Flanagan issued a 42-page order denying all claims that NCDOT violated federal law when the department studied and selected the parallel bridge. 

On Sept. 27, Judge Julian Mann III issued an order allowing NCDOT to intervene in the state action filed by the SELC against the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Coastal Management for issuing a Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) permit to NCDOT. Legal staff is working to resolve the state action as quickly as possible.

On Oct. 1, the SELC appealed the federal judge’s ruling that would allow construction to begin on the bridge replacement project. The appeal added further delay in building a parallel bridge to replace the current bridge, which is already well beyond its expected 30-year lifecycle and in constant need of repair and maintenance to keep it safe for travel.

The documents relating to the state action, as well as the federal ruling are available on the Bonner Bridge Replacement webpage.

6 comments

  • Amanda

    So the SELC has now made it where the people of The Outer Banks were in danger crossing the bridge and now they are having to use emergency ferries. I’m all for making sure unnecessary things aren’t done to hurt the environment but challenging a necessary lifeline for the residence then appealing the ruling when they didn’t get their way just shows they weren’t out to protect anything.

    The state and the residents losing money should send the bill the SELC.

  • Jack

    No, actually, Dare County scuttled a long bridge replacement that would have avoided these issues years ago. Rebuilding Bonner in the same spot and connecting it to the narrow spit of sand that is highway 12 means that road closures will be inevitable in perpetuity. There was a solution that worked for everyone. Your local representatives blew it.

  • Darin

    I have an idea to raise money to start the funding of the bridge….Lets require the birders that crippled the islands economy to obtain a license to take pictures. They will have to take a class of course before receiving the license, which they will have to pay for. Also lets make sure the NPS corals them into certain random areas while closing the rest off. Oh and lets also apply strict ever changing limits to how many pictures they can take of each bird type. Hatteras was built by sportsman, not bird watchers!

    • Joe

      Darin – I’m don’t really agree with the argument being made by the SELC either, but your ideas are also pretty silly. We clearly need to identify a solution which is sensitive to commercial issues as well as environmental ones. I’m pretty sure they go hand-in-hand, as commercial tourism is dependent upon natural beauty for the OBX.

      As a closely-related aside: birders’ and sportsmen’s interests should dovetail nicely. After all, both groups depend on thriving fauna.

  • Dick Wright

    This is a serious situation. Residents, Vacationers and Politicians need to come together andget the new bridge project moving. There is strength in numbers so organize, organize and go forth.

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