Finally, it's happened -- ground
for Bonner Bridge replacement
...WITH SLIDE SHOW AND
By JOY CRIST
"who’s who" of state and Dare County officials and a large crowd of
community residents gathered on the northern tip of Hatteras Island on
a warm and sunny Tuesday morning to welcome Gov. Pat McCrory and
witness the official groundbreaking for the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge
project to replace the aging span has been in the works for nearly 25
years -- with the initial replacement project added to the state's
Transportation Improvement Program in 1989-1990. Over the years, making
progress has been an upward climb through various proposals and a
lawsuit that slowed progress to a near halt.
Hatteras Island residents who were instrumental in propelling the
replacement forward – Natalie Kavanagh and Beth Midgett – were there to
witness today's celebration.
had been working for a new bridge for 10 years, first with Dare
County's Replace the Bridge Now Citizens Action Committee, and then as
an essential part of the “Bridge Moms” movement.
a doubt, this is a day that I thought we would not see,” she said. “And
the only day better will be the ribbon cutting for the bridge opening.”
was a leader of the Bridge Moms – a local group that stemmed from a
well-received speech she made in July of 2010 about how she feels when
going across the aging and decrepit bridge with her child.
that initial speech, a letter-writing campaign to the nation’s “First
Mom,” Michelle Obama, began, with letters that were hand delivered by
then Gov. Beverly Perdue. It was a successful voice, and the Bridge
Moms were referenced a handful of times by several speakers during
is 10 years’ worth of work here,” Kavanagh said. “I’m very happy to see
this day, and very proud of the moms who wrote emails and letters, and
signed petitions, and I’m proud of the Dare County government, which
stepped in when no one else would.
“This is definitely a
bridge for the people, because a lot of people had their hands on it,”
turn, the Dare County Board of Commissioners were equally grateful to
the Hatteras Island community members who stepped up and created
grassroots movements to have their voices heard.
so many people to thank for their persistence,” said County
Commissioner Warren Judge. “And this is truly a great day. There are so
many reasons for us to be joyful. This is the beginning, and this will
be a lynchpin in a rejuvenated economic investment in Dare County. This
bridge is going to start great things for us.”
many people deserve accolades,” said Allen Burrus, Hatteras Island’s
County Commissioner. “The commissioners and the community members made
this a priority, and there are hundreds of people to thank.”
general sentiment of the county officials, the N.C. Department of
Transportation staff and alumni, and, of course, the islanders who
worked so long to finally break ground, was that today was simply a
addition to the folks who were directly involved in the long process, the
ground-breaking ceremony was also attended by a number of local and
statewide news crews, including television news teams from Time Warner
Cable, WAVY in Virginia Beach, and WRAL in Raleigh. Roughly 10
cameramen set up video cameras on a raised platform to capture the
event, and crowds of chairs were stationed in front of a small stage
which would serve as the focal point during the ceremony.
was also a group of nine students from grades 9-12 of the Cape Hatteras
Secondary School, who were student government members and Science
Olympiad team members who completed a project on bridge construction.
Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., attended the ceremony, along with
representatives from the National Park Service and Dare County
Sherriff’s Office and many local business owners.
finally, Queen Elizabeth I herself, also known as Nancy Harvey, made an
appearance, joined by Lance Culpepper, the producer of the "Lost
Colony" outdoor drama.
was quite the crowd, and quite the welcome for Gov. McCrory, who showed
up at the site at 9:45 a.m. – 15 minutes before the ceremony began. He
spent a few minutes shaking hands and saying 'hello" or "thank you" to
various attendees, including the local students who had second-row
seats, and then went to the raised stage in front of the current
bridge, along with the other four speakers.
ceremony started with a welcome from N.C. Board of Transportation
member Malcolm K. Fearing, who was an appropriate choice for the
occasion. “You can tell by my accent that I’m from here,” he said “And
I proudly represent Division 1 of NCDOT… and I’m proud to welcome you
to an event that we’ve been waiting for for a long time.”
This statement was
immediately met with a round of applause.
welcome was followed by a prayer from Pastor Daniels of Wanchese – a
prayer that was slightly interrupted when a plane carrying the banner
“Oil Drilling is Bad for Business NOTTHEANSWERNC.ORG” started flying
overhead – and then the large group was led in the Pledge of
Allegiance, followed by the National Anthem.
From there, it was
time for the remarks, which started with McCrory.
don’t need notes, because this is personal,” he began. He then
chronicled how the bridge impacted the livelihood of local residents,
and was instrumental for the statewide tourism industry. “Eighty
percent of visitors that come to North Carolina come right here,” he
He also gave due
credit to the folks in attendance who had been striving for a new
bridge since the get-go.
“It wasn’t me who did
this – it was you who made this happen,” he said. “The people of the
Outer Banks made this happen.”
also remarked on the length of the project and how long everyone had
waited for the ground-breaking day to finally arrive. “I’ll tell you
how long it’s been – We have Queen Elizabeth standing here!”
This was met with a
big laugh from the crowd.
most resilient people in the world live here," he continued. “I want to
thank the chairman, the commissioners, and the people here who did not
next speaker was Jones, who thanked his staff, and the local leadership
who came to Washington, D.C., to “talk to us about the needs of this
“Today is the
beginning of a solution,” he stated to nods of agreement.
The third speaker was
Nicholas J. Tennyson, Secretary of the NCDOT.
credited the governor for stepping up to get the bridge project and a
number of other transportation projects done, without excess red tape.
“Were it not for Gov.
McCrory, we would still be talking about a court case, and not a new
bridge,” he said.
formula that the governor proposed takes the politics out of
transportation, and allows us to address the immediate needs of the
state,” Tennyson said.
also outlined how the new bridge – which will feature high performance
concrete, deeper pilings, and stainless reinforcing steel, (the first
bridge in the state to use this material) -- will last 100 years.
closed by thanking the design team and NCDOT staff, board member
Fearing, whom he called a “tireless advocate for this project,” and the
locals who helped – specifically the Bridge Moms.
The final speaker of
the morning was Robert Woodard, the chairman of the Dare County Board
stated earlier, [the bridge] is a long time in the making,” he began.
“Today, we honor those who had the courage to pursue the dream of
replacing the Bonner Bridge.”
also outlined how important the tourism industry was to Dare County,
but also the state, noting that the tourism industry employs 12,000
people in the county – or about 1 in 3 people – and that North Carolina
receives $47 million in state taxes from Dare County.
He closed by once again thanking the community that had
been there from the beginning.
Hatteras Island community launched a powerful campaign that ignited a
spark,” he said. “When the Bonner Bridge Moms wrote letters, it brought
tears to your eyes.
“Without the people
of Hatteras Island, today would not be possible,” he said.
Woodard's remarks, the party moved to the mound of sand and gold-plated
shovels that were situated about 10 yards away, and the governor called
out for the Queen herself to join the groundbreaking.
first shovel of sand was dug by the governor, the other ceremony
speakers, and NCDOT general counsel and deputy secretary Shelley Blake,
and after the first round, other community members and instrumental
government officials were invited to come up and have a turn at
This included the
group from the Cape Hatteras School, who were all smiles as they posed
the ceremony was over, news crews interviewed the governor before he
left via a waiting car, and community members talked with reporters and
each other about the event.
overall consensus was that the brief one-hour ceremony, which was
brightened by gorgeous weather, was indeed a cause for celebration. A
momentous day, which that had seemed next to impossible a few years
ago, had finally arrived.
WHAT HAPPENS FROM HERE
officially started today, and the new bridge is expected to be complete
and open to traffic by November 2018. The demolition of the existing
bridge will then begin, and the entire project – from construction of
the new bridge to getting rid of the old one – is expected to be
completed by September 2019.
Daytime lane closures
should be expected on Highway 12 on Mondays beginning at 7 a.m. through
Fridays at 3 p.m. though June 13.
lane closures are not allowed June 14 through Sept. 14. However,
nighttime lane closures will be allowed from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. the
One lane will remain
open during closures. However, motorists should allow for extra travel
nighttime road closures for up to 30 minutes for deliveries may be
needed, and advance notice will be given in these situations. NCDOT is
working with the U.S. Coast Guard and the local boating community to
keep them informed of any construction activities and potential impacts
to the navigation span at the existing bridge. Any impacts to
navigation will be to ensure the safety of the boaters and will be for
short periods of time.
Click here to view a slide show of the day's
Click here to view a video of the groundbreaking.