Commissioners hear about bridges, dredging, and ferry tolling
By IRENE NOLAN
video is a fly-through visualization of what the new BonnerBridge
over the Oregon Inlet from BodieIsland to Hatteras
Island will look like once construction is complete. The video was created by HDR, the lead design firm working with PCL
Civil Constructors Inc. for the North Carolina Department of Transportation
Transportation issues topped the agenda at the Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, Feb. 1.
Among the long list of items on the agenda were updates on the Bonner
Bridge replacement and other bridges on northern Hatteras Island,
dredging in Hatteras Inlet, and ferry tolling.
Jerry Jennings, North Carolina Department of Transportation Division 1
Engineer, gave the commissioners a briefing on bridge replacements.
BONNER BRIDGE REPLACEMENT
Jennings said the contract was originally awarded to the design-build
team of PCL Civil Constructors and HDR Engineering in 2011 for $215.8
million. The team will still design and build the Bonner
replacement at a cost that has risen to $246 million because of delays
caused by legal challenges.
The contractors are already gearing up, Jennings said, and construction
is expected to begin in March. The current schedule, he said,
calls for the new bridge to be open for traffic by November 2018.
The project, including the demolition of the old bridge, is scheduled
for completion in September 2019.
The new structure, Jennings said, would be more durable than the
current bridge, ensure safer navigation through Oregon Inlet and
perhaps even reduce the amount of dredging needed there, and have fewer
problems with scour around the pilings.
Jennings made several comparisons between the old and the new bridge:
The new bridge will be 2.8 miles long, compared to 2.4 miles for the current one.
The new bridge will have fewer bents or pilings to interfere with navigation -- 83 compared to 207 on the current bridge.
new bridge will have seven navigation spans, compared to one on the
current bridge. This will allow the channel to migrate more without
limiting where vessels pass under the bridge, which may reduce dredging.
The navigation openings on the new bridge will be 291-314 feet, while they are only 130 feet on the current bridge.
The total high-rise length on the new bridge will be 3,550 feet, compared to 502 on the current one.
finally, the lifespan of the replacement bridge will be 100
years. The lifespan on the current bridge was 30 years, and it
has been exceeded by more than two decades -- at great cost to NCDOT.
"There are less pilings in the water, less obstructions for mariners
and less scour potential as well," Jennings told the commissioners.
The replacement bridge calls for many precast concrete elements, the
use of stainless reinforcing steel, and high durability concrete to
protect against corrosion. The bridge, Jennings said, will have "a more
substantial foundation" and deeper pilings to add to its durability and
Most of the current bridge will be demolished and the demolition
material will be added to several offshore reefs. About 1,200
feet of the bridge will be retained --both as a "fishing pier" and,
Jennings said, a "training structure" and will help keep deeper water
from migrating south.
No explosives will be used on site to demolish the old bridge to keep
debris from falling into the water. The pieces of the old bridge
will be moved to another site before demolition.
Jennings also introduced resident engineer Pablo Hernandez, who will be
managing the day-to-day details of both the Bonner Bridge replacement
and other bridges planned for northern Hatteras Island.
PEA ISLAND INTERIM BRIDGE
Jennings noted that the temporary, 660-foot steel bridge that is now in
place at the site of the inlet formed on Pea Island by Hurricane Irene
in 2011 will soon be replaced with a sturdier but still temporary
He said that a contract for $79.7 million was awarded to Parsons
Construction in November 2013 to build a 2.1 mile permanent bridge on
the site. Work was halted on the bridge in September 2014 when
NCDOT began negotiating with environmental groups to end the legal
challenge to the construction of the Bonner Bridge and the plans for
other "hotspots" on Highway 12 -- such as the Pea Island Inlet.
The contract with Parsons was cancelled in June 2015 as part of the
settlement with the environmental groups. The groups agreed to
let NCDOT replace the smaller, steel bridge with a larger temporary
bridge, but NCDOT promised to consider other alternatives for a
permanent bridge on the location -- including a bridge out into Pamlico
Sound and away from the wildlife refuge.
A new contract was awarded to T.A. Loving Co. in November 2015 for
$14.3 million to build a half-mile long interim concrete structure.
Jennings said the new version of the temporary bridge will be "much
more substantial" and is designed to last until there is a
long-term solution in the area.
The contractor, he said, is mobilizing, and the bridge is scheduled to
be open to traffic in April of 2017. The project will be
completed in August 2017.
NORTH RODANTHE BRIDGE
Jennings called the area of the S-curves and Mirlo Beach in north Rodanthe a "historical hotspot."
He noted that the roadway was reconstructed and sandbags placed after
Hurricane Irene in 2011. After Superstorm Sandy in 2012 caused
more damage, a beach nourishment project was planned for the
area. It was completed in September 2014.
Planning for a long-term solution in the area has been underway for
several years, and a preferred alternative was selected in June of
last year. That alternative is a 2.5-mile "jug-handle" bridge
that will be built out into Pamlico Sound and rejoin Highway 12 just
north of Island Convenience in Rodanthe.
Public meetings on the preferred alternative, he said, are planned for
this spring with a Record of Decision issued this summer and a contract
signed later this year. Jennings said three design-build teams
have been shortlisted to build the bridge, which is estimated to cost
about $200 million.
Click here to see Jennings' entire presentation to the Board of Commissioners with graphics and photos.
HATTERAS INLET DREDGING
Dixon, assistant director of NCDOT's ferry division gave the
commissioners an update of the recent dredging project in Hatteras
The project opened up each end of a connecting channel between Sloop
Channel and the Hatteras Gorge -- a passage that is critical for boats
to have access to the ocean.
The Ferry Division used the state dredge, Carolina -- a pipeline dredge
-- for the project, which started on Nov. 25 and was finished on Jan.
11 at a cost of $273,000, considerably less than the estimated cost of
$452,000. The county pays one-fourth of the cost from its inlet management fund and the state pays three-fourths.
Allen Burrus noted that captains are still experiencing some problems
with shallower water at the east end of the dredge project next to the
Gorge. Dixon said that the strong flow of water and currents
through the area will open it up more and keep it open.
Dixon also said that 55,000 cubic yards of sand were removed during the
project and much of it was or will be used for dune replenishment on
He also noted that the state's new dredge will be ready for operation
in April. It is also a pipeline dredge, he said, but is "a nice update
from what we have now."
The Board of Commissioners slightly softened -- but did not change -- its stance on ferry tolling.
At its meeting on Monday, the commissioners voted unanimously to
support a resolution by Hyde County's commissioners that the Albemarle
Regional Planning Organization delay considering ferry tolls until
after the General Assembly explores alternate funding when it meets
A similar resolution was approved on Jan. 27 at a meeting of the Albemarle RPO in Elizabeth City.
Monday's approval of the resolution may somewhat mend fences with Dare's neighbors in Hyde County, which includes Ocracoke.
Back on Oct. 19, the Dare board surprised many observers by approving
by a 6-1 vote a resolution recommending that the Albemarle Regional
Planning Organization approve ferry tolling -- including a toll on the
The only commissioner dissenting was Allen Burrus of Hatteras village.
The move surprised and angered Dare's neighbor, Hyde County, which has
opposed tolls, especially on the Hatteras-Ocracoke route, which Hyde
officials believe would damage the Ocracoke economy even more than the
longer ferry route already has.
The problems stem from a change in how new ferries are funded in the state.
Before Gov. Pat McCrory's Strategic Transportation Investments Act was
passed in 2013, ferries were funded by the legislature in the state
budget. The new transportation plan divides the state into 10
regions and gives them a pot of money to finance all transportation
Now funding of ferries, at about $15 million each, must come out of the
pot of money allocated to the 11-member Albemarle RPO -- which totals
just $32 million. Both Hyde and Dare are members of the Albemarle RPO.
The RPO, at its Oct. 21, meeting decided to kick the can down the road
and make another attempt to get the legislature to reconsider how it
funds new ferries when its meets in a short session next spring.
Both Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, and Rep. Paul Tine, U-Kitty Hawk, are
in favor of removing ferry replacement from the projects that must be
funded by the RPOs and both have promised to work toward that goal when
the legislature meets.
Torbett is chairman of the House Select Committee on Strategic
Transportation Planning and Long Term Funding Solutions, and he brought
members of the committee to Hyde County earlier this week to hear from
Ocracokers on their opposition to ferry tolling.
After the Dare board's October vote in favor of tolling, Commissioner
Warren Judge, traveled to a Hyde County board meeting, to apologize for
On Nov. 16, Hyde County manager came to Manteo to make a personal
appeal to the Dare board to reverse or rescind its resolution favoring
But, by a vote of 5-2, the Dare board turned down Rich's plea. In
favor of changing the board's stance were Burrus and Judge, the board's
only two Democrats.
At Monday's meeting, the vote was only in favor of supporting a
resolution to wait until the legislature weighs in on funding ferries
before the RPO makes a decision on the issue.
Apparently, the resolution favoring tolling still stands.
Commission vice-chairman Wally Overman told the Outer Banks Sentinel
that if and when the RPO votes on ferry tolling, Dare County will vote
in favor of it. However, he said, the Dare commissioners also
favor waiting for the legislature to act.
In other business at the board meeting, the commissioners told David
Alberg, superintendent of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, that
they do not favor plans that NOAA is currently considering to expand
Chairman Bob Woodard read the comments by the board, which are about
identical to the comments the board made when the issue was first
raised almost five years ago.
"The Dare County Board of Commissioners strongly supports the use of
peer-reviewed science to protect the resources, preserve the
archaeology, and pursue ongoing research, monitoring, and
conservation," the comments say.
The commissioners encourage NOAA in its education and outreach efforts
and call on the agency to expand its utilization of the Graveyard of
the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras village.
However, the commissioners said, they "strongly object" to any expansion of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
"Our problem is not with you," Burrus told Alberg. He said the
problem is that "Government organizations today are subject to being
hijacked by special interest groups."
to read an article on NOAA expansion plans, including how to comment
and where meetings are planned. One of them will be on Thursday,
Feb. 11, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum.
Cick here to read the Board of Commissioners comments on the NOAA expansion plans.
And, the board heard a presentation from Chris Elder, gypsy moth
program manager in the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services' Plant Industry Division.
The division plans to spray an area this spring in Buxton that is heavily invested with gypsy moths.
Last year, the division announced in a letter to property owners and in
two public meetings that it planned to eradicate a severe, isolated
infestation of the invasive gypsy moth in the Buxton Woods State
Reserve area of Buxton and Frisco -- an infestation that threatens the
maritime forest's live oak trees with defoliation and eventually death.
"The infestation is intense, but small and very treatable," said Chris
Elder, gypsy moth program manager in the Plant Industry Division.
The division plans to use ground spraying in the most heavily infested
area and aerial spraying in a larger area. Elder said the spray
will affect only gypsy moths and will not affect humans or other plants
or animals. The spraying depends on weather, but will likely happen in
Click here for more information on gypsy moths and the state's plans.
In the lengthy meeting, the board also approved a wellness program for
its employees, voted 4-3 to lease some farmland on the mainland to Sow and
Reap LLC, made two changes to its zoning regulations, and
approved the Tourism Board's grant of $20,700 in additional funds to
the Soundside event site in Nags Head.
to view a video of the Commissioners' Feb. 1 meeting. The video
will allow you to click on the agenda on the right hand side of the
screen and go directly to the discussion you want to hear in the
meeting, which began at 9 a.m. and ended about 2 p.m. with a 45-minute
lunch break and a shorter morning break.
And click here for the agenda packet, which includes documents for many of the items under discussion.