December 3, 2013
Confusion, chaos, and outrage reign as DOT
suddenly decides to close Bonner Bridge
..WITH SLIDE SHOW
By CATHERINE KOZAK and ANNE BOWERS
chaos, and outrage reigned after the North Carolina Department of
Transportation’s sudden decision today to close the Bonner Bridge over
Oregon Inlet immediately.
The decision came just days after an
inspection of scouring around pilings last Friday, followed by a DOT
news release on Saturday that the bridge was safe and would remain
Hatteras residents headed north this morning for
shopping or appointments and vendors and contractors headed south,
unaware that their return route was about to be cut off.
Island residents waiting at the north end of the bridge this afternoon
in hopes of returning said they weren’t expecting this.
of vehicles, filled with islanders caught by surprise by the 3 p.m.
bridge closure, lined up north of Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, hoping
that state transportation officials would allow them through.
you going to let me take my mother home? “ Annette O’Neal from Salvo
asked the NCDOT worker stationed at the end of the bridge, who declined
to give his name. “She has heart problems. She has fluid on her
lungs. She’s 95-years old. I need to get her home.”
O’Neal said that she received “no warning…nothing,” about the closure.
“This is the stupidest mess I’ve ever seen,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”
people pleaded with the DOT worker, who for a time was the only person
the frustrated drivers could appeal to. Several mentioned the
line of northbound vehicles that were allowed to cross after the
southbound traffic was stopped.
“After I got here at about
3:30 p.m., I saw about a dozen out of state plates drive across and I’ve
been waiting here ever since then,” said Wendy Angelucci of Frisco. “I
don’t understand why they let the out-of-staters cross and not let the
Traffic southbound of the bridge was stopped
about 3 p.m., while northbound traffic continued to cross until about
45 minutes later.
Pat Weston of Avon was on her way back home with her husband, Jim, after his heart surgery in Norfolk.
“We’re just trying to get back home,” she said, with Jim sitting on the passenger side.
“As soon as he got discharged, we were heading back home.”
people said that they had heard at some point today – most cited from a
friend, a family member or the radio- that the bridge was closing at 4
p.m. A NCDOT worker who declined to give his name said that the bridge
was closed an hour earlier than expected because of safety concerns.
McClain, whose vehicle had New Jersey plates, said he was on his way to
work for Great Lakes, the dredge company working in Oregon Inlet.
McClain said that he was told to get to work by 3:30 p.m. because the
bridge would close at 4 p.m. But after waiting for more than an hour,
he gave up and turned his truck around.
Others said they were willing to take the chance of plunging into the inlet, even promising to sign a waiver.
“We’ll hold hands,” said Jackie Burrus Poteate, a Hatteras native.
said she was worried about her husband waiting back home because he was
alone and had a heart condition. The driver, her daughter, Terri Poteet
“We’re just trying to get home,” she said. “We’ll take the risk.”
Carol Williams Anderson of Buxton said she thinks the whole situation didn’t make any sense.
think it’s a conspiracy of the local and state governments to close our
island down,” she said. “I think it’s a political game to put
pressure on to get the bridge built.”
An interview with Gov.
Pat McCrory late this afternoon by reporter Sam Walker broadcast by Max
Radio reinforced Anderson’s view.
“We’re being blocked by lawsuits,” the governor said. “The new bridge should have already been under construction.”
environmental groups, represented by the Southern Environmental Law
Center, have sued the state over the permitting of the bridge, and the
project has been stayed by the courts for months.
stopped by some pretty left-wing environmental groups that I don’t
think have the best interest of the public in mind.”
McCrory said that people should “put public political pressure on these groups.”
people were told they could walk across the two-mile bridge, but after
a worker let someone cross on foot, officials said that there would be
no access whatsoever permitted on the bridge. One man did anyway,
daring the DOT worker to arrest him. He was not stopped, and police
arrived soon to again enforce the closure.
For more than an
hour after the bridge closed, most everybody in line waited in place,
hoping they would eventually be allowed to cross. Although there was a
sign at Whalebone Junction warning of the bridge being closed, a few
additional vehicles continued to drive on and took their place at the
back of the line.
Jeff Pope, a Buxton property owner who lives
in Rocky Mount, said he drove to the Outer Banks after reading online about
the bridge situation and was reassured by DOT reports that the bridge
“I’ve been following the bridge news,” he said. “It
was like, ‘C’mon – everything’s fine.’ However . . . ,” he said. “I
left at about 2 o’clock, and here I am.”
Some drivers wondered
aloud what would happen if they drove around the barricade and went
over the bridge. One person said if they all did it together, no one
could stop them. But by 5 p.m., everyone had given up and turned
The scene all afternoon at the south end of the bridge
on Pea Island was much the same – though there was less traffic lined
up. At one point, there were about a dozen vehicles and delivery
trucks with drivers who hoped that someone would let them cross before
the bridge was finally closed.
“It would have been nice to have
gotten some notice,” said Brian Hardison of Kill Devil Hills. He
works at Good Winds Café in Salvo, which is already closed.
However, he was back down today to do end-of-the-season cleaning.
Jones of Manteo, who was trying to get home after his first day of work
on the island, said he’d heard that “this kind of thing can happen on
Hatteras,” but he agreed that some notice would have been nice.
one point, Dare County sheriff’s deputies were discussing with DOT when
the last vehicles could cross over before the closure.
word came shortly after 4 p.m. that there would be no more traffic
allowed to cross the bridge, drivers started their engines in unison to
turn around and race back to Rodanthe to catch a 6 p.m. emergency ferry
to Stumpy Point.
By 4:30 p.m. there were already two stacking
lanes of traffic at the Rodanthe ferry docks that spilled out onto
Highway 12 and backed up almost to Island Convenience. In the line were
delivery trucks, vehicles, and road pavers.
The ferry to Stumpy
Point loaded up and left before 6 p.m., leaving another boatload to get
the next scheduled ferry at midnight.
Two ferries were scheduled from Stumpy Point to Rodanthe at 9:30 p.m. and 3:30 a.m.
Tomorrow morning the emergency ferry will begin a regular schedule.
The announced schedule for the emergency ferry route is:
Departing from Stumpy Point: 5 a.m., 6:30, 8, 9:30, 11, 12:30p.m., 2, 3:30, 5, and 9:30 p.m.
Departing from Rodanthe: 6a.m., 7:30, 9, 10:30, Noon, 1:30 p.m., 3, 4:30, 6, and 7:30.
Any updates or changes will be posted on the Ferry division website.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDE SHOW
has closed Bonner Bridge because of safety concerns