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Yet another update on replacing the aging Bonner Bridge

Wednesday 11 November 2009 at 4:32 pm. The timetable for getting the construction of a new Bonner Bridge underway has slipped back in time again, though Jim Trogdon, North Carolina Department of Transportation chief operating officer, says the bridge is still scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Two weeks ago, Trogdon said in an interview that he expected a Record of Decision – the final step before such things as letting contracts and getting permits – was still expected about the end of November and that the contracts would be put out for bid in February.

You can check my Oct. 30 blog for those details and background information.

However, on Tuesday, Nov. 10, Trogdon, in a telephone conference, told the Dare County Committee to Replace the Bonner Bridge that the schedule was falling six to eight weeks behind.

Here is the new timetable:

•    Currently a revised final Section 4(f) consultation, signed by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), has been sent to various agencies whose public lands will be affected by a new bridge and any subsequent work on the frequently overwashed Highway 12 through Pea Island.  Agencies commenting will include the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Administration, National Park Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

•    Comments from the agencies on the DOT plan to build a parallel bridge and use an adaptive management plan to deal with Highway 12 are due by Nov. 26.

•    After that DOT and FHWA will have to review comments and respond where needed.

•    Concurrently, DOT has completed an Environmental Assessment of the plan.  Trogdon says the FHWA asked that the environmental assessment replace the supplement to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, which was what was planned last summer. Confusing terminology, but basically, DOT must review and assess the environmental impacts of the final plan.

•    The draft of the Environmental Assessment is being reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration.

•    When that review is finished, perhaps in early December, the Environmental Assessment will be put out for public comment for 30 days.

•    When those comments are received and reviewed, DOT can issue a Record of Decision (ROD).

•    Trogdon and his staff said they think that the ROD can be issued by early or mid-January.

•    DOT now expects the contracts will be awarded in June of next year.

However, Trogdon said the design-build bridge project is on track for completion in 2014.

The current preferred alternative, Trogdon said, is Parallel Bridge North with NC 12 Transportation Management Plan to the south.

That means, he said, that DOT will replace the 2.7 mile bridge parallel to the current one and move to “adaptive management” of the highway south of the bridge and its erosion and overwash problems.

“We are going to wait until the environment tells us what we need to know,” Trogdon told the bridge committee.

He also said the adaptive management plan would allow DOT to use “the best approach at the time needed” on future Highway 12 problems.

“We’ve already looked at all the options,” Trogdon said. The “adaptive” management plan will allow “the best technique at the right time in the corridor.”

Once the Record of Decision is issued, environmental groups that are opposed to the parallel bridge option and still favor a 17-mile bridge that bypasses Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, can take legal action against DOT.

“We’ve had strong indications that SELC (Southern Environmental Law Center) is considering a lawsuit,” Trogdon said.

“We have a high level of confidence from Federal Highway attorneys that the approach we are taking is legally defensible,” he added.

Trogdon emphasized that DOT is “very comfortable with this process and where we are going.”

However, the fact remains that Pea Island refuge manager has continued to call the parallel bridge and dealing with erosion by rebuilding parts of Highway 12 “incompatible” with the refuge.

And U.S. Fish and Wildlife may not change its mind.

Perhaps the process will be clearer by early December, and we will publish information about public comment periods as soon as we get it.


The revised final section of the 4 (f) consultation is available on The Outer Banks Task Force Web site, www.obtf.org. Look under OBTF documents.

eleven comments

Jim Boyd

"Once the Record of Decision is issued, environmental groups that are opposed to the parallel bridge option and still favor a 17-mile bridge that bypasses Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, can take legal action against DOT. We’ve had strong indications that SELC (Southern Environmental Law Center) is considering a lawsuit,” Trogdon said.

Folks I think we all know what that statement really means … we can continue to risk our lives (and those of our school children) crossing the bridge daily until the SELC has exhausted all their options in the court system … we have additional decades, not years to go … unless our politicians step up and fight these irresponsible lawyers … they are the only ones who have anything close to the power needed to stop this irresponsible abuse of our legal system!

Jim Boyd (Email ) - 11-11-’09 16:53
Bertie Dixon III

After following the bridge news for years, I just sit back and listen.
But Irene I was wondering! Was the replacement cost included
within it, the removal of the present bridge? Maybe they can move it
to Hatteras Inlet and Ocracoke or use it to replace the Frisco pier.
There all kinds of options the environmental groups could argue about
after the bridge is completed and they don’t have a further cause….:-)

Bertie Dixon III (Email ) - 11-11-’09 17:39
John Alley

There is an old math question.

If you start from a point and then step halfway to the wall, again and again.

At what point to you reach the wall?

If SELC has anything to say about it the wall doesn’t matter. The only solution is their solution.

It must be a great feeling to know that you are right beyond any doubts.

John Alley - 11-11-’09 22:30

The eco wacko’s will never let the bridge be replaced. They will sue in Bolyes court and an injunction will stop the process. THey want the bridge to fall. It’s all part of the plan to run every person off the island, and make it a wildlife refuge.

Pumpkinboy - 12-11-’09 13:30
John Alley

Rte 12, vs the Long Bridge.

The long bridge would be a technological wonder. Rivaling the Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Tunnel. Where the money is going to come from is another wonder.

Rte 12 is a national treasure. It’s difficult, frustrating and sometimes dangerous. A National Scenic Byway full of wonders, delays and motel rooms in Nags head, when you were supposed to be in Hatteras, having a turkey dinner.

We used to play a game with the kids on the drive down. The first one to spot the lighthouse was king of the car; with all the privileges that occurred, they quickly learned which turn in the road would expose the prize. That place no longer wins the prize, the lighthouse has been moved and the prize is waiting at another turn in the road, much further north then before.

If the drive were in daylight, they would play a game of the 1st to see the ocean over the dunes. A game that varied with the season, cause what won in March was a looser in October.

There is another road that is spectacular; “Going to the sun road” in Glacier National Park”. It has no commercial value, other than to allow the public to have a great experience. It costs lots of money to maintain. I have tried to do the drive on 4 occasions over my life and never made it. It took me three tries to make it over Independence Pass in Colorado. Another spectacular drive with no commercial value but absolutely wonderful.

People search out these drives not for where it gets them, but for the experience.

So here we have Rte 12. Not only a unique drive but also a commercial lifeline to a distinctive culture, rich in history and supporting the local economies of small villages, dependent on access to the beaches, both ocean and sound.

Local economy? The vast majority of National Parks are for the public to access inside the parks boundaries. It’s easy to define boundaries. The public is on the outside looking in.

The Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area exists from the inside out and Rte 12 is the heart and soul of this unique park.

Yea it’s flat, compared to majestic mountains but no less an experience for the elevation.

You can’t see a line of thunderstorms out on the Gulf Stream from Aspen.

The long bridge may be a great leap forward for the environmental groups, limiting access for humans. What they don’t understand, or choose to ignore, is that humans are part of the equation and the population and visitors of this recreational area will not go quietly into their environmental reality.

I can’t wait for the NPS to “show its hand”.

Then it’s game on for our future.

John Alley - 12-11-’09 22:54
Rob Alderman

“We’ve had strong indications that SELC (Southern Environmental Law Center) is considering a lawsuit,” Trogdon said.”

Where would Hatteras and Ocracoke be without its almighty savior Derb Carter?? A lot happier I am sure

Rob Alderman - 13-11-’09 02:28
Salvo Jimmy

Re CBBT vs Long Bridge, both within tenths of a mile same length.

The CBBT is purposely not used as an evacuation route because of its length and exposure which would be similar for the long bridge.

CBBT with this little blow has been at restriction 4 (only small vehicles and unloaded pickups with no tows / cartop carriers allowed. )

Not a good idea for HI to be similarly restricted by such a minor blow. But then we humans don’t seem to count to some involved.

At one meeting I was at a remark was made that the long bridge would be shielded from the wind by Pea Island. The individual making the remark obviously had no clue that the long bridge road bed was higher than any elevation on Pea Island, let alone the fact the wind does not always blow from the East.

That’s an example of the mentality we are dealing with.

Salvo Jimmy - 13-11-’09 09:54

Greetings, all.

Highway 12 is a very special drive, no question. And yet the pictures from today demonstrate that the long term viability of Highway 12 in its current location is a non starter. It cannot be maintained indefinitely, no matter how much money is spent on it. A new bridge in the same location will be a bridge to nowhere because there will be no road to connect to the rest of Hatteras Island. With each successive storm event and breach, you will have to elevate the road throughout the refuge (with significant disruption in travel) until you end up with a long bridge on the ocean side of land. Given continued erosion and sea level rise much of Rodanthe itself is probably toast within a generation.

Clearly there is no ideal option here.

JR - 13-11-’09 15:30
Salvo Jimmy

Long term you are probably correct JR.

But the erosion predictions for 60+ years show 3 spots on Pea Island as a problem in less than that time frame. Two at the very North end of the island just South of the present bridge and the area North of Rodanthe. The current approach calls for eventually bridging the two areas to the North and NCDOT believes now they don’t have to stay in the current right of way and could do this at the Western edge of the island. The plan for Rodanthe area calls for a bridge eventually taking off about 2 miles to the North, swinging out into the sound and back in at about Island Convenience.

Then NCDOT “crosses the rest of the bridging” 60+ years down the road.

But even the present long bridge plan can also be a bridge to nowhere because it does not address such areas as the sound flooding road closures in Salvo, the sometimes overwash at Ramp 23 and 27, the areas just North of Buxton and Hatteras and the North end of Ocracoke.

So again yeah eventually a bridge will be advocated by some from Point Harbor to Beaufort.

Salvo Jimmy (Email ) - 13-11-’09 16:15
Rob Alderman


There is an ideal solution..The one that can be currently funded and that has been approved. Now if the Audobon, DOW and the SELC wants to supplement the remainding funds to build the long bridge, then we will be glad to listen. I am sure if the goverment couldn’t afford the estimated $35,000 per Piping Plover to protect them, then the SELC and the rest of the BULLIES would be glad to get what ever they could..

Rob Alderman - 14-11-’09 04:46

Ok, I am sitting here with a dog who as of last night went to his cage and won’t come out to eat, drink, or go out for business without me taking his collar a coaxing him. This morining he wouldn’t even eat, just stood there gaurding his food and he was moving very slow. He did business, drank and went right back to his crate.

Now, I tell you this if it weren’t for SELC, et al and all the other enviornmentalists we would have had a bridge at Mirlo Beach, the northern section where a storm took out the dunes would have been moved or bridged long ago, etc. So thanks to SELC, et al here I sit watching my dog suffer and wondering if he will die because I can’t get him to a vet.

SELC, et al, Derb, Jason, Chris, Redfin, Manager of Pea Island and all the others who have stonewalled the bridge replacement since 1993, a pox on all your houses. Better yet, all who experience problems this week, time for a law suit of our own.

Ginny (Email ) - 15-11-’09 08:20

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