October 11, 2013
Critical projects on Highway 12 move along despite
legal challenges to bridge replacement
By CATHERINE KOZAK
two lawsuits that have stymied progress on the replacement bridge over
Oregon Inlet, the state Department of Transportation is moving along
with several critical projects on the highway south of the bridge.
contract to construct a permanent bridge over the new inlet in Pea
Island was advertised for bids by the department this week, public
workshops are expected to be held by year’s end to allow input on
a long-term solution at Rodanthe, and a beach nourishment project at
S-Curves is being prepared to be put out for bid, though it will not be
done until spring.
Jerry Jennings, NCDOT division engineer,
said that the legal actions taken by environmental groups to stop the
planned replacement for the 50-year-old Herbert C. Bonner Bridge do not
affect the agency’s ability to work on the Highway 12 portions of the
“They are tied to the bridge project itself,” Jennings said about lawsuits pending in state and federal courts.
Construction of the new $216 million Bonner Bridge has been stalled in the courts.
Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Defenders of Wildlife
and the National Park Conservation Association, sued to stop the
project in 2011. Last month, a federal judge ruled against the
plaintiffs, who have since appealed her decision.
When the state
issued a CAMA permit allowing the project to begin, the environmental
groups then challenged that. The permit was stayed in June
because of the legal challenge. It could be months before a
hearing on the matter can be scheduled.
Two projects repairing
deteriorating parts of Bonner’s concrete and steel structure are
underway, resulting in occasional lane closures on the 2.4-mile span.
said that construction of the Pea Island and Rodanthe fixes are
continuing as planned, “subject to further lawsuits, obviously.” But he
said he is currently not aware of threats of any additional legal
After the contract is awarded to replace the temporary
metal bridge over the inlet that was punched through Pea Island during
Hurricane Irene, Jennings said that construction is expected to begin
early next year and be completed in about three years. Traffic will be
maintained in a phased approach, he said, with vehicles diverted or
rerouted as appropriate to the level of activity.
In a press
release issued by DOT on Thursday, the agency said that putting the
contract out to bid followed signing of the project’s 244-page record
of decision by the Federal Highway Administration, the final step
before construction can begin.
“This is an important step
forward, because the new 2-mile bridge will offer reliability to the
residents, visitors and businesses that depend on N.C. 12,” NCDOT
Secretary Tony Tata said in the release. “I’m proud of the team who
worked for years to turn our short-term fix after Hurricane Irene into
a long-term solution.”
The other long-term solution at Rodanthe
has not yet been chosen, Jennings said. Two options, a bridge within
the existing right-of-way, or a bridge that loops out into Pamlico
Sound, are still on the table. The chosen alternative will be decided
after the workshop meeting and public comment is reviewed, he said.
the choice, the Rodanthe site has been determined to be suitable for a
design-bid project, he said. That means the contractor will design and
build the project at the same time, rather than bid on a project that
has already been designed, like at Pea Island.
“It allows for more efficiencies,” Jennings said.
Construction at Rodanthe will also take about three years, he said.
the Army Corps of Engineers beach nourishment project planned at
S-Curves by Mirlo Beach so far does not appear to have been crippled by
the government shutdown and is almost ready for construction.
hoping it will soon be advertised by the Corps,” Jennings said. Most of
the easements and permits have been acquired, he said, adding that he
does not expect any problems securing the final documents.
Two offshore sand sources have been identified, he said. The contractor has the discretion to choose from either site.
permitting, construction is expected to begin in the spring. Not
including mobilization time, the nourishment should take about three
DOT and the Corps had been saying the nourishment would be done by late summer or early fall.
The 2-mile project will require 1.5-million to 2-million cubic yards of sand and cost about $20 million.