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Bridge Contractor Settles for $10M Over Blackout

Friday, May 4, 2018

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The firm that was working on building the new Herbert C. Bonner Bridge in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina when crews severed a major electric transmission line last July has preliminarily reached a $10.3 million settlement with businesses and residents in the area.

PCL Construction, of Denver, will pay $8.1 million to businesses and $2.25 million to residents and renters in the area affected by widespread blackouts and evacuations that lasted nearly a week after the incident. The class-action settlement covers many, but not all, of the separate suits filed in the wake of the blackout.

The settlement, ordered by U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III, is pending a public-notice period and will not be finalized until at least late summer.

The Incident

Crews working on the replacement of the now 55-year-old Bonner Bridge damaged a set of cables that supplied power to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands while they were driving casings on July 27. Two of the three cables were completely severed, and power to the two islands was shut down entirely. Emergency generators brought power back to parts of the islands by July 31, and power was restored late the following week.

More than 50,000 residents and vacationers left the two affected islands on the Friday and Saturday following the incident, which occurred on a Thursday. Less than 10,000 permanent residents remained that weekend. The suits filed against PCL largely centered on the loss of business on the tourism-heavy islands during peak vacation season.

The Project

Construction on the Bonner Bridge Replacement Project began in March 2016. The design-build contract was granted to PCL in 2011, with HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas serving as lead design firm. The job, including roadways leading up to the new bridge, is set to cost $246 million.

The old Bonner Bridge was built in 1963, with a design life of about 30 years. As early as 1989, the bridge was eyed for replacement, but environmental reviews and lawsuits brought by environmental groups concerned about the nearby Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge delayed the project by decades.

In December 2013, the bridge was closed temporarily when areas of the support structure were found to have been eroded by sand. It was reopened less than two weeks later, when the structure had been shored up.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Contractors; Lawsuits; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Safety

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