August 1, 2014
DOT says budget provision would
not affect Bonner Bridge replacement
By IRENE NOLAN
North Carolina Department of Transportation today clarified a provision
in the state's final proposed budget that applies to repairing and
replacing coastal highways and bridges.
The provision allows the
governor to issue an executive order to waive requirements for state
permits for the repair, protection, safety, or replacement of certain
roads and bridges that are damaged by "events leading to the
declaration of a state of emergency."
Nicole Meister, DOT's
communications manager for strategic initiatives, said today that the
provision would not apply to the current plan to replace the aging and
decrepit Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet, which is being
challenged in the courts.
"Under the budget provision," she
said, "a state of emergency issued by the governor would allow repairs
of major coastal roadways to take place as quickly as possible to
restore reliable access. The Bonner Bridge would not be subject to this
provision should it become law, because all permits for the bridge
pre-date the provision."
The provision is narrowly tailored to apply almost exclusively to the Highway 12 corridor on the Outer Banks.
gives the governor the emergency powers in the case of "a component of
the state highway system that provides the sole road access to an
incorporated municipality or an unincorporated inhabited area bordering
the Atlantic Ocean or any coastal sound."
Meister says it would
help DOT "streamline" the repair of storm damage to highways and
bridges by bypassing the requirement for the department to obtain state
permits, but she said obtaining federal permits would still be required.
The Island Free Press reported yesterday -- as did many other media outlets -- that the provision could affect or speed up the replacement of the Bonner Bridge.
plan for the replacement project is being challenged in state and
federal courts by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of
its clients. The project is currently on hold, pending the outcome of
A decision is expected any day now from the U.S.
Appeals Court for the Fourth Circuit on the federal lawsuit, and a
hearing is scheduled in state court in November on a challenge to the
Major CAMA Permit issued in September 2012.
The latest budget
proposal is a $21.3 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that
began on July 1. The Senate and House have been wrangling over a
compromise for most of this month.
The General Assembly is
voting now on the proposed budget. If it passes the House and Senate,
the governor will have 30 days to sign or veto it before it
automatically becomes law.