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Bonner Bridge replacement set to open imminently

The new bridge across the Oregon Inlet, Dare County, is expected to be open to traffic soon. Photo by Don Bowers, courtesy of the Island Free Press

Compiled from stories in the Island Free Press

The replacement for the major bridge connecting the southern Outer Banks islands to the world is set to open any day now.

The last step to opening the bridge entails painting the traffic lines on the roadways that direct traffic from the existing Bonner Bridge to the new bridge, according to NC DOT Spokesman Tim Hass.

Awaiting official designation as the Marc Basnight Bridge, the replacement bridge opened unofficially  Feb. 9 with a ceremony with local and state representatives and for the community to walk its length.

The Dare County Commissioners recently favored naming the new structure the “Marc Basnight Bridge” and asked the North Carolina Board of Transportation to support naming the new bridge over Oregon Inlet after former State Senator Marc Basnight.

That request cleared its first hurdle as the N.C. Board of Transportation’s Road, Bridge and Ferry naming committee approved the name with a sign underneath it saying, “Oregon Inlet,” and keeping the remaining section of the current bridge, (which will be used for a as walkway/fishing pier), as the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge.

The old Herbert C. Bonner Bridge is dwarfed by the soon-to-be-named Marc Basnight Bridge. Photo by Don Bowers, courtesy of the Island Free Press

The full N.C. Board of Transportation will vote on the resolution at its next monthly meeting on March 7. 

The new structure–50 to 189 feet west of the existing bridge–is designed to have a lifespan of 100 years. Stainless reinforcing steel and high-durability concrete was used to protect against corrosion from the harsh salt air and water, and the high-rise portion extends for 3,500 feet with seven navigational spans, (averaging about 300 feet in width each), which provides more options for navigation under the bridge.

The new bridge also features 12-foot-wide travel lanes and 8-foot-wide shoulders, which will improve safety for vehicles and cyclists alike. (The current bridge has no shoulders.)

The $252 million-dollar project broke ground on March 8, 2016, at the southern end of Oregon Inlet.

Once the bridge has opened to traffic, the majority of the existing Bonner Bridge will be demolished, and the material will be used at offshore reef sites in coordination with the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. About 1,000 feet of the existing bridge at the south end will remain in place and will be open for pedestrians.

The project in its entirety is set to be completed by the end of 2019, which includes about 10 months for the demolition of the original bridge.

To view a timeline of the saga of the new bridge since 1990, click here.

Hundreds of pedestrians take a walk Feb. 9 on the new bridge across the Oregon Inlet on “Community Day.” Photo by Don Bowers, courtesy of the Island Free Press