September 15, 2014

UPDATE: DOT and SELC in 'discussions'
about Bonner Bridge replacement




The North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, are currently in active, confidential discussions regarding replacing the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet with a new parallel bridge while continuing to develop a long-term solution to the transportation challenges along the stretch of Highway 12 south of the bridge to Rodanthe.

Following a complex ruling issued by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 6, both sides determined that it was best to move forward with confidential discussions to resolve the bridge dispute. NCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration decided to temporarily suspend work on the permanent Pea Island Bridge construction until those talks and a detailed review of the recent court ruling are complete. 

Last week, NCDOT also met with the Highway 12 merger team, comprised of state and federal resource and regulatory agencies, to brief members on the status of the project and solicit feedback on a new concept that is under consideration.

“We remain committed to building a new parallel bridge over the Oregon Inlet to ensure the safety of Outer Banks residents and visitors,” said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. “We have been in conversations with the SELC about the Bonner Bridge project for more than a year and believe these recent proactive discussions are a positive step toward a permanent solution.”

“We are continuing to work together with NCDOT to resolve this matter with a reliable, long-term solution that ensures the safety of the traveling public and avoids the problems that currently threaten N.C. 12,” said Derb Carter, director of the North Carolina offices of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Because of the confidential nature of these discussions, no additional statements will be released on this issue from NCDOT or conservation groups until conversations are complete and the issue is resolved.
 


POSTSCRIPT

In the late afternoon of Monday, Sept. 15, the North Carolina Department of Transportation gave us more information on the abrupt work stoppage on the Pea Island bridge.

It is now clear that the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of its clients, does have a seat at the table to negotiate the Bonner Bridge replacement and the future of Highway 12 on Pea Island.

These discussions are private because they involve litigation. DOT will not be making another statement until "conversations are complete and the issue is resolved."

At this point, we must trust lawyers for DOT to have our best interests at heart.

I hope those attorneys are aware of what happened when the defendants and the defendant-intervenors, which included Dare County, "negotiated" with SELC and its clients in 2008 about off-road vehicle use on the beaches of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

That didn't work out so well.

It's just a travesty that because of the way the system apparently works, the members of the public, whose lives and livelihoods depend on the outcome of the discussions, do not have a seat at the table.

Here is the complete media release:

"The North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association, are currently in active, confidential discussions regarding replacing the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet with a new parallel bridge while continuing to develop a long-term solution to the transportation challenges along the stretch of Highway 12 south of the bridge to Rodanthe.

Following a complex ruling issued by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Aug. 6, both sides determined that it was best to move forward with confidential discussions to resolve the bridge dispute. NCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration decided to temporarily suspend work on the permanent Pea Island Bridge construction until those talks and a detailed review of the recent court ruling are complete. 

Last week, NCDOT also met with the Highway 12 merger team, comprised of state and federal resource and regulatory agencies, to brief members on the status of the project and solicit feedback on a new concept that is under consideration.

“We remain committed to building a new parallel bridge over the Oregon Inlet to ensure the safety of Outer Banks residents and visitors,” said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. “We have been in conversations with the SELC about the Bonner Bridge project for more than a year and believe these recent proactive discussions are a positive step toward a permanent solution.”

“We are continuing to work together with NCDOT to resolve this matter with a reliable, long-term solution that ensures the safety of the traveling public and avoids the problems that currently threaten N.C. 12,” said Derb Carter, director of the North Carolina offices of the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Because of the confidential nature of these discussions, no additional statements will be released on this issue from NCDOT or conservation groups until conversations are complete and the issue is resolved."

"We know how crucial N.C. 12 is to connectivity for residents and visitors of the Outer Banks and I applaud our joint negotiations to resolve this matter as quickly as possible," Said Governor Pat McCrory.


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