From the top of the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. Photo by C. Leinbach
On the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge. Photo by C. Leinbach

Aug. 19. Raleigh – Governor Pat McCrory announced the final roadblocks were cleared Friday allowing the N.C. Department of Transportation to proceed with construction of a new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on N.C. 12 over the Oregon Inlet in Dare County.

Completing the terms of a settlement agreement reached in June, environmental groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center have dropped all remaining lawsuits that prevented NCDOT from replacing the 52-year-old Bonner Bridge with a new bridge parallel to the existing one.  

NCDOT awarded a $216 million design-build contract for the 3.5 mile-long Bonner Bridge replacement to the team of PCL Constructors Inc. and HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas in 2011. This contract is still in place and the final contract amount will be adjusted to meet current costs associated with the construction delay.

With the final dismissals, NCDOT and the contractor expect to complete final design and pre-construction work in time to begin building the new bridge in spring of 2016. 

“This marks another historic milestone in finally replacing the critical lifeline bridge for residents and visitors of the Outer Banks and supporting our continued efforts to connect North Carolina,” said Gov. Pat McCrory. “I want to thank the entire team of NCDOT employees, state, and federal attorneys who have worked so hard to make this possible and find a solution for the Bonner Bridge project which had been stalled for more than 20 years.” 

State legislative members made comments.

“I am very pleased that the lawsuits that have delayed the replacement of Bonner Bridge have been dropped,” said Rep. Paul Tine (U-District 1).  “The governor and his team at the Department of Transportation have worked tirelessly to meet the requirements of this compromise. I look forward to the beginning of work and seeing the new bridge spanning Oregon Inlet.”

State Sen. Bill Cook (R-District 1) also weighed in.

“This announcement of the Bonner Bridge replacement is a significant gain as well as relief to the residents of the Outer Banks and the millions of visitors that travel to the area each year. The replacement of the Bonner Bridge has been deliberated for the past couple of decades. I’m thankful to the support from my colleagues in the N.C. General Assembly, Gov. McCrory, and the N.C. DOT for actually getting us over the finish line.” 

In addition to replacing the Bonner Bridge NCDOT will also: 
•    Construct a new interim bridge over the breached inlet on Pea Island 
•    Construct a 2.5 mile-long Pamlico Sound bridge, known as a “jug handle,” from the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge into Rodanthe.

Pea Island 
NCDOT will move forward with plans to construct an interim bridge on Pea Island at the location of the existing temporary bridge that was constructed after Hurricane Irene formed a breach in 2011. The interim bridge will be easier to maintain than the existing temporary bridge. It will provide safe access for the area while the department studies options for a long-term solution at this location.  
NCDOT expects to award a contract for this project in the fall, with construction starting as early as the end of this year.

Rodanthe Long-Term Bridge 
With the preferred design officially approved by the project merger team, NCDOT can also proceed with constructing the long-term bridge for N.C. 12 from the southern end of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge south into Rodanthe. 
By replacing the existing stretch of N.C. 12 with a bridge in the Pamlico Sound, NCDOT will be able to maintain safe and reliable access for residents and visitors of Rodanthe and southern Hatteras Island. This area includes a section of N.C. 12 north of Rodanthe known locally as the “S-curves” also damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011.

The bridge is estimated to cost between $178.8 million and $197.8 million. Before a design-build contract is awarded and a timeframe for construction can be set, final documentation must be completed.  
The department chose this design over a bridge along the existing route of N.C. 12 because it minimizes impacts to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, the ocean shoreline and the Rodanthe community. 

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