Record of Decision is signed on Bonner Bridge replacement project
The Federal Highway Administration signed a Record of Decision (ROD)
late this afternoon that clears the way for the North Carolina
Department of Transportation to move ahead with the construction of a
replacement for the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet.
And NCDOT is not letting any grass grow under its feet in the effort to
get the project, which has been in the planning stages for two decades,
In a media release this evening, DOT said it has already put the
following time-saving measures into effect:
- Decided to
the new Bonner Bridge using the design-build method. By hiring one team
to simultaneously design and build the project, NCDOT said it will
complete the project years sooner and save taxpayer dollars.
- Has three
design-build teams ready to compete for this estimated $300 million
contract. NCDOT plans to open the bids in June, 2011.
permit negotiation meeting for Jan. 4, 2011.
The stalled bridge project seemed to have reached an impasse during the
summer when all agencies except the U.S. Department of the Interior had
signed off on the latest environmental study, which was released by DOT
In its response to the study, DOI called the study “deficient” and
“inadequate.” At public hearings and during a public comment period,
the response was overwhelming that folks favored the plan and wanted
the project to move ahead. It was, to them, first of all, a
public safety issue, and an economic issue for Hatteras Island and all
of Dare County.
In August, at the request of local officials, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan,
D-N.C., talked with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who sent Tom
Strickland, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks to Dare
County to assess the situation.
Strickland met with state and local officials and toured Pea Island
In November, Hagan came to Dare County for what was billed as an
“information session” on bridge issues and what eventually became an
effort to get state and federal agencies on the same page on the plan
for the replacement.
Hagan toured under and over the bridge and along Highway 12 in the Pea
Island National Wildlife Refuge with Dare County Commissioners Warren
Judge and Allen Burrus, representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers, Stickland’s deputy Jane Lyder, and Victor Barbour of NCDOT.
Following Hagan’s visit, Lyder pursued meetings that involved DOI,
NCDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Hagan said Salazar
told her on Saturday that DOI had withdrawn its objections to the plan
and was ready to move forward.
“I think this is a great victory for the Hatteras Island community,”
said Hagan, who said she was committed to seeing the bridge replacement
project through the rest of the process “today, tomorrow, next week” or
Hagan praised efforts to work out a solution by Salazar and FHWA
administrator Victor Mendez and the community, county, and state
officials, including state Sen. Marc Basnight, a Manteo Democrat, who
was President Pro Tempore of the state Senate and who wrote two letters
to President Barack Obama about the public safety issue and the need to
move forward with a new bridge.
“This announcement today is a critical step,” she said, adding that
Mendez told her that a key to getting the project moving
was having the agencies “sitting down face to face” in meeting that
started in November and continued into this month.
Jim Trogdon, NCDOT’s chief operating officer, called it a “testament to
what can be done when government works together at all levels -- local,
state, and federal.”
In a letter to Mendez on Friday, Dec. 17, Lyder wrote that “the
Department no longer objects to FHWA concluding its environmental study
process with the selection of the Parallel Bridge with NC 12
Transportation Management Plan alternative as the bridge replacement
alternative that will advance into the design stage.”
FHWA, she said in the letter, has agreed to:
A statement in its Record of Decision that federal-aid highway funding
for the project is conditional upon compliance with “terms and
conditions” of the permit that USFWS issues.
A program of periodic, site-specific forecasting studies by undertaken
by mutually agreed upon coastal science experts.
A statement in the Record of Decision that all restoration work for
Phase I be completed and accepted by DOI before the final transfer of
title for the new easement area.
Details of the permit condition and mitigation will be worked out in
the negotiation meetings that will begin Jan. 4.
In its media release, NCDOT said, “Information generated by a coastal
monitoring program will determine what types of improvements are needed
on the remaining stretch of N.C. 12 through the Pea Island National
Wildlife Refuge and when that work would occur.”
DOT added that the public will be invited to comment on the plans for
future phases of the project once they are developed.
And, DOT public information officer Greer Beaty, said that there will
be public comment period after each agency issues its permits for the
“This decision to move forward with the Bonner Bridge is a great
Christmas gift for the people of coastal North Carolina,” North
Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement. “I’ve told NCDOT to
attack this project with the greatest sense of urgency, making sure it
was ready to get working as soon as the law would allow.”
Perhaps the most thrilled folks on Hatteras Island were the Bridge
Moms, who wrote letters to Perdue and to First Lady Michelle Obama, and
their leader Beth Midgett of Hatteras, who has been chairman of Dare
County’s Replace the Bridge Now Citizens’ Action Committee.
They started posting on Facebook as soon as word started spreading this
afternoon, and Midgett said this evening that it “still didn’t seem
Earlier this afternoon, she posted on Facebook:
“Bridge Moms’ Christmas comes early! This news is the best gift for our
children that Sen. Hagan could give us! She has committed to see this
Bonner Bridge replacement through. Thank you to Sen. Hagan,
Commissioner Warren Judge, Commissioner Allen Burrus for your hard work
and dedication to the people of Hatteras Island!”
To read the letter from Jane Lyder
of the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to the Federal Highway Administration, click
To read the FHWA response, click
To read earlier blogs by Editor Irene Nolan on the year’s earlier
impasse, go to: