December 4, 2013
DOT officials address Bonner safety
concerns at press conference in Manteo
By CATHERINE KOZAK
transportation officials scramble to secure permits to repair the
Herbert C. Bonner Bridge, they say that it is too soon to know how long
the only land link to Hatteras Island will remain closed, but all
indications are it could take many weeks or even months before work is
At a hastily called press conference in Manteo on
Wednesday, North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata said
that his seemingly abrupt decision to shut down the bridge yesterday
was made after divers confirmed sonar surveys that showed alarming loss
of supporting sand around pilings under one section of the span.
“Having nine of ten piles below critical level was the key factor to me to close the bridge,” Tata told reporters.
secretary added that the unsafe condition of the bridge made it
impossible for him to let people keep crossing the bridge, even though
the lack of notice proved so inconvenient.
Tata said that he
and Gov. Pat McCrory have each declared a state of emergency, actions
that will hasten the permitting process for repair of the bridge. The
department also plans to install new equipment to monitor the stress
load of the pilings and the bents, or platform areas, of the bridge.
the last two weeks or so, Tata said, the state prepared a $1.6 million
contract with Carolina Bridge Co. to address the increasing scouring
that was detected by side-scan sonar. NCDOT and the contractor are
working together to develop a timeframe for the repairs to be completed.
says that as part of this emergency repair project, crews will use
sandbags and four-foot tall A-Jacks to provide support to the bridge
pilings. A-jacks locked together will be placed in a perimeter around
the support structure of the bridge. Crews will then fill the perimeter
with sandbags to provide support to the pilings.
two layers of A-jacks and sandbags will then be placed on top of the
base layer for a total of 10-12 feet of protection. This will allow
sand to collect over the sandbags and A-Jacks, providing additional
support to the structure.
Tata said that in the last week,
engineers reported that the sand depletion around the pilings was
approaching a dangerous point.
On Tuesday, Tata said, they
made the recommendation to him to close the bridge for safety reasons.
At about 1:30 p.m., Tata said he ordered the bridge closed.
The problem is centered around Bent No. 166, located toward the south end of the bridge.
Jennings, NCDOT division engineer, said that pilings should be standing
in sand 20 foot deep to be safe. The lowest piling has only 13 feet of
sand surrounding it.
Jennings explained later that the
sand creates pressure that holds the piling in place like rockbed would
elsewhere. When the sand is scoured away to the currently dangerous low
levels, the pilings could move, allowing the bridge span to tilt or
leave the section with no underpinnings, which could cause
is the worst situation that we have had in regards to scour on this
bridge,” Jennings said at the briefing. “We have had other areas that
have reached the point that we were concerned about. We were able to do
it never reached the point that the bridge had to be closed,” he said.
“This is the first time it had to be closed because of this problem.”
said that it is “not completely out of the question” that the bridge
may be able to be opened sooner to some traffic, with weight limits
But he said that engineers say that the “live loads”
of traffic is not as much of an issue as the “dead load” –the bridge’s
own weight – that is creating the concern.
soon as we reach a point in those repairs that the bridge can be
reopened,” Jennings said, “obviously, we will make every effort to do
Tata assured that the department will do all it can to
mitigate the impact of the closure, including suspension of tolls for
people traveling on the Cedar Island or Swan Quarter ferry.
“We care deeply about the people of the Outer Banks, as well as the environment of the Outer Banks,” he said.
with other local and state officials at the briefing, Tata lambasted
environmental groups whose lawsuits have delayed construction of the
State Sen. Bill Cooke, R-Chocowinity, took a moment to thank DOT, and then called for the groups to back off.
not so grateful of the stupidity of what these environmental nuts are
doing down here,” Cooke said. “This has got to stop. This is insane.”
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chaos, and outrage reign as DOT suddenly decides to close Bonner
has closed Bonner Bridge because of safety concerns