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Green Light Given to NC Bridge

Monday, August 24, 2015

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Plagued by legal woes, construction of the new Bonner Bridge in North Carolina just got the all-clear to proceed.

Concerns from environmental groups halted construction of the bridge meant to replace the 52-year-old structure currently connecting the Outer Banks to Bodie and Hatteras Islands.

The new build is now expected to begin in spring 2016.

Overcoming Obstacles

Having overcome the final barriers to the project, the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) can move forward with construction of a new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge on NC 12 over the Oregon Inlet in Dare County, NC, Governor Pat McCrory announced in a news release Aug. 18.


Legal disputes with environmental groups have been resolved, enabling NCDOT to move forward with construction of a replacement to the Bonner Bridge.

The 3.5 mile-long bridge is to be constructed parallel to the existing bridge; however, environmental groups balked at the state’s replacement plan and its inattention to a wildlife refuge.

According to WRAL, environmentalists were opposed to the plan’s omission of the costs of moving or maintaining the 12 miles of NC 12 that pass through the sanctuary on Pea Island.

They sought a 17-mile route around the protected area, connecting Rodanthe to other communities on Hatteras Island.

That bridge, WRAL reported, would have been the second-longest bridge in the United States, and state officials estimated the costs of building such a structure would reach more than $1 billion.

Coming to Agreement

Gov. McCrory indicated the terms of a settlement agreement reached in June have been met, and the environmental groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center—which included Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Refuge Association—have dropped all remaining lawsuits that stood in the way of construction. 

Some of these terms included ceasing work on a 2.4-mile bridge within the refuge and putting interim measures in place on Pea Island to provide safe and reliable transportation through this area, NCDOT announced in June.

“This marks another historic milestone in finally replacing the critical lifeline bridge for residents and visitors of the Outer Banks and supporting our continued efforts to connect North Carolina,” Gov. McCrory said in the recent statement.

“I want to thank the entire team of NCDOT employees, state, and federal attorneys who have worked so hard to make this possible and find a solution for the Bonner Bridge project which had been stalled for more than 20 years,” he added.

By SmkyBear / CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

NCDOT and its contractors plan to complete final design and preconstruction work in time to begin building the replacement bridge in the spring of 2016.

With these barriers cleared, NCDOT and its contractor will focus on completing final design and preconstruction work in time to begin building the new bridge in the spring of 2016. 

Construction Plans

The revised plan includes construction of the replacement to the Bonner Bridge, construction of the interim bridge of the breached inlet on Pea Island, and construction of a 2.5-mile-long Pamlico Sound bridge.

PCL Constructors Inc. and HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas were awarded the design-build contract for the Bonner Bridge replacement in 2011.

Still in place, the final contract amount will be adjusted to meet today’s construction costs. 

Work on an interim bridge on Pea Island, located at the site of an existing temporary bridge constructed after Hurricane Irene formed a breach in 2011, will continue.

NCDOT indicated this interim bridge will be easier to maintain than the current temporary bridge and will provide safe access for the area while a long-term solution is considered.  

A contract award is anticipated in the fall for this project, with construction starting as early as the end of 2015. 

Having received approval of a design that reduces impact on the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, ocean shoreline, and the town of Rodanthe, NCDOT is able to move forward on a long-term bridge for this area.

The Pamlico Sound bridge is being referred to as a “jug handle” stretching from the southern end of the refuge into Rodanthe.

By replacing the existing stretch of NC 12 with a bridge in the Pamlico Sound, NCDOT said it will be able to maintain safe and reliable access for residents and visitors of Rodanthe and southern Hatteras Island.

This area includes a section of N.C. 12 north of Rodanthe known locally as the “S-curves,” which had been damaged by Hurricane Irene. 

Costs for the Pamlico Sound bridge are forecast to fall between $178.8 million and $197.8 million. However, a construction time frame for the project will not be set and a contract will not be is awarded until final documentation is completed.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Environmental Protection; North America; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways

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