September 11, 2013
NCDOT secretary visits Hatteras to spotlight
the urgent need to replace Bonner Bridge
By CATHERINE KOZAK
Carolina Department of Transportation Secretary Tony Tata came to the
Outer Banks today to publicize the need to move forward with replacing
the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet.
view of the bridge behind him, Tata stood in a parking lot in front of
the rock jetty on northern Hatteras Island to make brief comments and
take questions from the local media.
“The new bridge needs to be
built, and we need to get moving on that,” he said. “Because
right now we’re on borrowed time, quite frankly.
“I would rank
the Bonner Bridge at the top 5 percent of transportation issues that we
face across the state,” he added. “This is a critical, vital
Plans to replace the bridge, opened in 1963 and the
only highway link to Hatteras Island, have been underway for 20
years. After much study and agency and public discussion, the DOT
opted for the option that would replace the bridge with a parallel span
and address the hotspots along Highway 12 on Hatteras Island in phases.
bridge, though rated “poor” because of its aging condition, is still
considered safe for the traveling public, but a 2006 report by
independent consulting groups said the bridge can be patched together
only until about 2016.
The state transportation department and
the Federal Highway Administration issued a Record of Decision to build
the parallel bridge in 2010. A $215.8 million contract for the
design and replacement was awarded in July 2011.
Construction was to have started last January with the bridge completed in 2015.
However, no work has started on the bridge and won’t until the legal issues are resolved.
groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2011 to stop DOT’s plan, and
the same groups have now gone to state Superior Court to challenge the
Major CAMA Permit for the construction.
“It’s costing millions
of dollars of taxpayers’ money, and it’s impacting the lives of the
people of the Outer Banks,” he said, adding that DOT cares about cost
efficiency and the people here.
Tata said that just since the
Record of Decision, the division has spent about $15 million on bridge
repairs. Since 1990, the total spent on bridge repairs has been
The longer the contractor has to wait, he added, the higher the cost of materials and labor will be.
“We’re going to end up paying more,” he said.
said it is apparent that the environmental groups that have sued the
state care little about the additional cost to taxpayers or the people
of the Outer Banks.
If “we’ve got to shut this thing down,” he
said, the next step would be using the emergency ferry from Stumpy
Point on the mainland to Rodanthe, a ride of more than two hours.
said the state doesn’t want to let it get to that point, but he did
visit the emergency ferry docks in Rodanthe and on the mainland today.
inspecting (the bridge) every day,” Tata said. Every day, he added,
13,000 vehicles cross the bridge. The ferry can only handle about 700 a
“We just want to make sure that we’re emphatically clear that there needs to be a new Bonner Bridge.”
lawsuit is awaiting a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Louise
Flanagan of the Eastern District of North Carolina in New Bern.
All of the motions and cross-motions by the parties were filed by last
November, but there has been no verdict.
“We’re at the mercy of
the judge right now,” the secretary said. “If we get a decision from
the judge that we can move forward, we’ll start working the next