December 3, 2013
DOT has closed Bonner Bridge
because of safety concerns
By IRENE NOLAN
To protect the traveling public, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has closed the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over the Oregon Inlet on Highway 12 along the Outer Banks today because of immediate safety concerns.
of early afternoon, some traffic was still being allowed to cross the
bridge while DOT workers put message boards and closure signs in place.
the word began to spread this afternoon, residents who had headed north
this morning for doctor’s appointments and shopping were turning around
and heading home and vendors, delivery truck drivers, and contractors
who had come to the island were heading back north as quickly as they
Southbound traffic was stopped at 3 p.m. Northbound lanes
closed at 3:48, and folks stranded on both sides of the bridge were
unhappy and arguing with DOT officials and deputy sheriffs.
emergency ferry route between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe will be
operational on Wednesday morning, though a spokesman for division said
there will be one ferry run tonight from each side. More
information is available on the North Carolina Ferry Division Facebook
page at https://www.facebook.com/NCFerries.
were circulating late last week that the bridge was going to be closed
and that the Ferry Division was putting emergency ferries in place.
an inspection of the scouring on Friday, DOT announced on Saturday that
the bridge needed immediate repairs but was safe for the traveling
public and would remain open.
The news that the bridge would
close immediately came out of the blue for most folks, who thought the
structure has passed inspection for now.
News that the closure
was imminent began spreading about mid-day today and was confirmed by a
DOT media release that came out about 1:45.
According to the
DOT, routine sonar scanning of the bridge identified scouring concerns,
or areas where too much sand has eroded from the support structure of
the bridge. As NCDOT crews continued to monitor these conditions,
inspections revealed additional areas of concern, which led department
officials to decide to close the bridge immediately for the safety of
all residents and visitors of the area.
The bridge will remain
closed until the department can bring in additional resources to
inspect the bridge and make necessary repairs to fortify the
NCDOT has declared a state of emergency as a
way of expediting the process and steps are already underway to begin
repair work as soon as possible.
“Closing the Bonner
Bridge is necessary to keep all travelers safe, but we know it will
have a devastating effect on the people who live along and visit the
Outer Banks,” said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. “We will work to safely
reopen this vital lifeline quickly, and hope to be able to begin
construction on a new bridge as soon as possible.”
is working closely with county leaders, emergency workers, and other
officials to keep the public informed throughout the process.
County manager Bobby Outten said this afternoon that county officials
have been told that the closure may just be for a week or two, but the
worst-case scenario is a four-month closure.
Division workers have already tested the emergency ferry ramps at
Stumpy Point and Rodanthe, and the division is currently sending four
180-foot River-Class vessels to begin operating the emergency Hatteras
All tolls currently in place on the
Ocracoke-Swan Quarter and Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry routes will be
waived for residents, emergency personnel, and vendors while the bridge
is closed and the emergency ferry route is in operation.
The U.S. Coast Guard is also currently on standby.
expect the emergency ferry route to be up and running Wednesday
morning,” said Ferry Division Deputy Director Jed Dixon. “We know the
residents of Hatteras Island are depending on us to be their lifeline,
and we take that responsibility very seriously.”
capacity on a full schedule, the route can ferry 760 single cars a day,
380 from each side. A detailed emergency ferry route schedule will be
available on the Ferry division website.
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.
said Dare County officials will be working on some type of priority
system for ferry passage. He noted that there were many reasons
for priority – including work, medical appointments, family
emergencies, funerals, and delivery of much needed commodities – and
that setting priority is never easy.
Replacing the Bridge
decades, NCDOT has known the Bonner Bridge stands on borrowed time and
needs to be replaced. NCDOT awarded a contract to a design-build team
to replace the bridge in August 2011. Design work began
immediately and construction of the replacement bridge was originally
set to begin in early 2013. All work is currently on hold following a
series of legal challenges by the Southern Environmental law center on
behalf of the Defenders of Wildlife and National Wildlife Refuge
On Sept. 16, NCDOT received a favorable
ruling in the federal lawsuit filed by the SELC when Judge Louise
Flanagan issued a 42-page order denying all claims that NCDOT violated
federal law when the department studied and selected the parallel
On Sept. 27, Judge Julian Mann III issued an
order allowing NCDOT to intervene in the state action filed by the SELC
against the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Division of Coastal Management for issuing a Coastal Area Management
Act (CAMA) permit to NCDOT. Legal staff is working to resolve the state
action as quickly as possible.
On Oct. 1, the SELC
appealed the federal judge’s ruling that would allow construction to
begin on the bridge replacement project. The appeal added further delay
in building a parallel bridge to replace the current bridge, which is
already well beyond its expected 30-year life and in constant need of
repair and maintenance to keep it safe for travel.
The documents relating to the state action, as well as the federal ruling are available on the Bonner Bridge Replacement webpage.
the CAMA permit challenge and the federal appeal are resolved, NCDOT
will immediately move forward with construction of the new bridge.
has already spent more than $56 million in necessary repairs,
inspection and maintenance on the 50-year-old bridge since beginning
the process to replace it more than two decades ago. Two additional
repair projects on the Bonner Bridge, which total $2 million, and are
needed to keep this critical transportation corridor open, began this
Read more about the history of the Bonner Bridge and challenges to building a new one.