Aug. 9, is the last day to comment on bridge project
is the last day for the public to comment on the Environmental
Assessment of the Bonner Bridge replacement project that was released
The North Carolina Department of Transportation conducted public
comment meetings in Dare County in early July and will close the
comment period on Aug. 9.
Details on how to submit comment can be found at the end of the
article, along with links to other articles and comments made by
federal, state, and local governments and environmental groups.
The Bridge Moms group will continue to accept letters for a while.
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue has agreed to deliver letters urging
that the Bonner Bridge replacement plan go forward now to protect
children to First Lady Michelle Obama next week, according to Beth
Midgett, head Bridge Mom and chairman of the Dare County Citizens’
Action Committee to Replace the Bonner Bridge.
Midgett sent out an urgent plea last evening for more letters to be
written overnight and delivered this morning to overnight them to the
Midgett said today that 106 letters were sent out this morning.
The group will continue to collect the letters and Midgett hopes that
another mom, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., will deliver the rest to the
“You do not have to live on Hatteras or Ocracoke island to
participate,” Midgett says. “Any concerned mom, of any age, who has a
child or grandchild who travels over the bridge at any time is welcome.
For example: Perhaps there are older mothers off the Island whose adult
children live on one of the islands? Or grandmothers from off the
island whose grandchildren are dependent on the lifeline of Bonner
Bridge? Maybe a mother from off island who has a son who drives a
delivery truck on and off the island? A Mom from off island whose son
visits in the fall to come fishing…. All are welcome to write an
Sending photos of children who live on or visit the island is also
Also this week, state Rep. Tim Spear of Creswell, who represents Dare
County in the General Assembly submitted his comments, along with Outer
Banks Chamber of Commerce.
You can click on the link at the end of this article to read these
comments and Dare County’s comments, which were submitted earlier.
All three of these letters are very thorough and well done and stress
the public safety and economic impacts of waiting any longer to replace
the aging Bonner Bridge.
After all comments have been received, NCDOT and the Federal Highway
Administration will compile them and decide whether to issue a Record
of Decision based on the Environmental Assessment or whether another
environmental study is needed.
Tim Spear summed up the feelings of many islanders and visitors.
“We have been fortunate,” he said, “that no real catastrophes have
occurred to date, but the poor condition of the Bonner Bridge puts
everyone at risk. The current bridge sees a traffic flow of
5,000 vehicles per day and during the summer months that can grow to
around 10,000. It is past time to build this bridge – we
wait any longer. We do not need anymore studies and the
Decision (ROD) should be released as soon as the public comment period
ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENTS AND COMMENTS
Click here to read state Rep. Tim
Click here to read the Outer Banks
Chamber of Commerce comments
Click here to read Dare County’s
Click here to read comments from
North Carolina State Agencies
HOW TO SUBMIT
If you missed the public hearings, you can still submit comments until
Citizens who did not speak at the meetings but would like to provide
comments can mail them to Drew Joyner, Human Environment Unit Head,
NCDOT, 1598 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1598. They may also
call or e-mail their comments to Drew Joyner at (919) 431-6700 or [email protected].
NCDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, and other agencies will
review the comments received and then determine if additional
environmental studies are needed.
To read the Environmental Assessment and view the project maps, visit
the NCDOT Web site or the Outer
Banks Task Force Web site. Copies of the
Environmental Assessment are also available at the following locations:
• Dare County Planning and Inspections
Satellite Office 49815 Highway 12 in Frisco.
• NCDOT Resident Engineer’s Office 349
Waterplant Road, Unit B Manteo
• Dare County Public Library 700 U.S.
• Dare County Public Library 56658
Highway 12 Hatteras
• Dare County Public Library 400 Mustian
St. Kill Devil Hills
• Fessenden Recreation Center 46830
Highway 12 Buxton
Copies of the maps are available at the Dare County Planning and
Inspections Satellite Office in Frisco and the NCDOT Resident
Engineer’s Office in Manteo.
The Editor’s Blog: An update on replacing the Bonner Bridge
Editor’s Blog: Soccer Moms, Hockey Moms, and now Bridge Moms
Bridge Moms on Facebook
The Editor’s Blog: Replacing the Bonner Bridge may be back on track
Editor’s Blog: Public Comments will be critical for getting
bridge replacement moving again
Dare County Citizen’s Committee to Replace the Bridge website: www.replacethebridgenow.com.
Bridge Replacement Timeline
Keeping up with the bridge replacement schedule has not been easy since
DOT started planning two decades ago to replace the aging span that
opened in 1963.
Meanwhile, funds have been poured into repairing the bridge, which now
has a sufficiency rating of 2 out of a possible 100. DOT
officials say that with the repairs, the bridge is still safe for the
About 10 years ago, a plan was put forward to build a 17-mile bridge
parallel to the island that would bypass Pea Island and land in
That bridge, preferred by many environmental organizations, was
declared too costly to build, and a federal, state, and local
interagency task force endorsed the shorter, parallel bridge.
Along the way to getting construction underway, there have been a long
list of environmental studies
A brief chronology:
- 1990. State
begins feasibility study for replacing Bonner Bridge.
1993. Draft Environmental Impact Statement on bridge replacement is
released for review. It favors a parallel bridge.
- Early 1994.
Public hearings on DEIS.
Preliminary Final Environmental Impact Statement is issued, which was
never signed because of lack of consultation with U.S. Fish and
Because it had been more than seven years since the completion of the
DEIS, a re-evaluation is conducted to determine if the preliminary FEIS
remains a viable alternative. Decision is made to prepare a
supplement to the DEIS.
- 2002. Work
begins on Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement
(SDEIS).supplement to DEIS.
2005. Supplemental DEIS completed and signed. It includes
alternatives, including short- and long-bridge options.
2005. Public hearings are held on SDEIS.
2007. Supplement to SDEIS is signed. This supplement to the
supplement includes two new parallel bridge options.
2007. Two public meeting are held on the supplement to the
2008. Final Environmental Impact Statement is signed. It favors
Parallel Bridge with Phased Approach /Rodanthe Bridge as the preferred
alternative and addresses comments made the SDEIS and SSDEIS.
2009. Parallel Bridge Corridor with Highway 12 Transportation
Management Plan Alternative was added to the FEIS and selected as the
preferred alternative. This is a variation on parallel bridge
alternatives addressed in FEIS.
2009. Revised Section 4 (f) evaluation is issued in response to
comments received on the FEIS. It determines Pamlico Sound Bridge – the
long bridge -- is not feasible.
2010. Federal Highway Administration requests an Environmental
Assessment of the preferred alternative in the FEIS.
2010. Environmental Assessment is released.
2010. Public comment period on EA is announced with public
meetings scheduled for July.
up. Examine public comments on new EA and determine if more
environmental studies are needed. If no more studies are needed, a
Record of Decision could be issued in September.
July 8, 2010
urge action on bridge, but
another environmental study may be necessary
Another study to study the study of the mega-studied proposed new
bridge over Oregon Inlet could soon be necessary, to the disbelief of
frustrated Outer Bankers.
Speakers at the first of the latest hearings on building the
replacement for Herbert C. Bonner Bridge responded to that possibility
with a resounding sentiment of “No way!”
“We watched each others’ kids grow up as we’ve tried to build this
bridge,” Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Warren Judge said
at the hearing Tuesday night, July 6, in Manteo, where about a dozen
people came to the microphone.
“Lord, folks, let’s get on with it. We don’t need further
studies,” Judge added.
A second hearing on the most recent project plan will be held by the
North Carolina Department of Transportation tonight at 7 p.m. in
Buxton. The public comment period closes on Aug. 9.
Planning for the replacement of the only land link to Hatteras Island
began 20 years ago, but the project has been hindered by environmental
challenges, government agency disagreements, controversy about the
design, and threats of lawsuits.
Until recently, most people had assumed that the planning marathon was
nearing the end, and the construction start was around the
But once again, the light in the tunnel has dimmed.
Transportation officials say they’re reluctant to venture guesses on a
timeline until all the comments on the current Environmental Assessment
are reviewed and it is determined whether there are any significant
changes from the previously–approved plan. If so, that would require
another supplement to the environmental plan, followed by an additional
public review period before a record of decision, the final step in the
process, can be issued.
“I can just tell you it could take more time, but I can’t be any more
specific,” Brian Yamamoto, a DOT project development group leader, said
after the hearing.
Comments submitted by some environmental groups, he said, have asserted
that impacts have changed significantly and that an important
environmental review in the plan is flawed.
After numerous twists and turns in the planning over the years, the DOT
in 2009 finally seemed to have found a solution that could survive
legal challenges and sidestep difficult permit requirements.
Since then, the design has undergone revisions that address impacts to
the historic district in Rodanthe. The state has also definitively
dropped its once-favored 17-mile alternative that would have bypassed
Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The current preferred alternative would as soon as possible build the
bridge just west of the existing bridge, and include a management plan
to address Highway 12 improvements as needed. The new bridge, expected
to cost about $300 million, would be completed before the old one is
demolished, and a permit would be sought to keep the terminal groin in
place. An 8-foot shoulder for bicycles and some provision for
fishing have been approved, but the final designs are still to be
determined. Funds --- 80 percent federal, 20 percent state ---- are
already available for the bridge.
The long-term transportation management plan could cost as much as $1.5
billion through 2060. Options include bridges or nourishment, or
combinations of them, and could require relocations of up to six homes
and seven businesses.
An environmental assessment was released in May, triggering the need
for this week’s hearings.
Opened in 1963, the Bonner Bridge was designed to last 30 years. Over
time, Oregon Inlet’s notoriously powerful currents and frequent storms
battered the span with corrosive saltwater, deteriorating the 2.5-mile
concrete and steel structure. Although its condition is rated
poor, the state has spent millions for repairs to keep the span safe
until it is replaced.
But residents, nonetheless, are fearful about the bridge collapsing,
taking lives and the islands’ tourism-based economy down with
Several people referred to the difficulty 20 years ago when a dredge
hit the span and the island was cut off for months.
Beth Midgett, chairwoman of the Citizens’ Action Committee to Replace
the Bonner Bridge Now, told the 50 or so attendees --- which included
numerous local officials and DOT staff ---- that the bridge that is
“suffering a slow death” is the lifeline for the more than 5,000
year-round residents on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
“As a parent and as a host for vacationers and as a responsible member
of the community, you have no idea how stressful it is to wonder what
can happen,” Midgett said.
“Please ---- you can’t do this to us again down here.”
In an e-mail message that Midgett distributed the following day, she
wrote that she is concerned that the completion date could now extend
past 2017, the final year that bridge repairs were designed to
last. When the plan was first updated in the early 2000s, the
bridge had been expected to be completed by 2010.
Dare County Sheriff Rodney Midgett said that the bridge is vital to
providing services and protection. If it collapsed, he said, everything
from power supplies to emergency assistance to hurricane evacuation
could be affected.
“Failure to replace the bridge in an expeditious manner compromises
public safety,” he said.
Kozak, a former reporter for The Virginian-Pilot in the Nags Head
office, is now a freelance writer for The Island Free Press and other