November 15, 2012

Preparations underway for pile testing for
Bonner Bridge replacement project

Outer Banks residents and visitors will soon begin seeing barges and heavy equipment moving into Oregon Inlet near the Bonner Bridge as the North Carolina Department of Transportation prepares to start pile testing for the Bonner Bridge Replacement Project in Dare County. Piles are large columns positioned in the earth to support a bridge.
The pile testing is necessary before construction can begin on the new Bonner Bridge. The tests will verify the engineer’s estimates of how much weight the piles can safely bear. This process will ensure that the bridge’s design is sound and buildable.
Two barges loaded with materials and equipment will travel from Chesapeake, Va., to Oregon Inlet, arriving as early as Friday, Nov. 16, weather permitting. Once that happens, the following steps will take place:

Crews will begin constructing a temporary positioning device that will hold the piles in place during testing. This will take about two weeks to install.

Crews will then place some of the test piles into the ground in the footprint of the new bridge. These piles will go 110 feet deep into the earth, making them some of the deepest jetted piles along the East Coast.

After perfecting the pile installation process, the contractor will start in early January testing how much weight the piles can bear. Three hydraulic jacks will use force to measure each pile’s ability to support weight, ranging from 3 million pounds to 3.6 million pounds. The average bridge pile supports about 500,000 pounds.
The pile testing is scheduled to be complete by mid-January. At that time, crews will remove the piles and the positioning device and ship them by barge back to Virginia.

The work will have no impact on NCDOT’s dedicated effort to repair, reconstruct, and reopen Highway 12 to traffic in areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy and the northeaster.
During testing, the barges will not block the navigational channel in Oregon Inlet.  NCDOT advises mariners to avoid the areas where the barges are located to ensure safety. They will be marked in accordance with U.S. Coast Guard guidelines.
NCDOT is actively moving forward with the Bonner Bridge replacement project. Design work is 75 percent complete, and the department expects to begin construction in early 2013, pending the results of an ongoing lawsuit to stop the project.
To watch a visualization of what the new Bonner Bridge will look like, visit the NCDOT YouTube channel at

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