Officials blame environmentalists for Bonner Bridge problems - WNCT

Officials blame environmentalists for Bonner Bridge problems

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Drivers in the Outer Banks are finding new routes as the Bonner Bridge remains shut down.
    
The North Carolina DOT says the bridge is in a state of emergency.    

Inspections found that too much sand has eroded away from the bridge's supports.
    
The DOT will keep it closed until crews fix the problem.
    
By declaring a state of emergency, it helps speed the repair process.
    
Tata told a news conference today that environmental groups who filed a lawsuit are to blame for the delay in replacing the bridge.

"When the engineers told me it was unsafe. I made the decision to close the bridge immediately," said Tony Tata, NC Sec. of Transportation.

Until it's fixed, the North Carolina Ferry Division will help move cars and people across the Oregon Inlet.

--- Original Story ---

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has made the decision to close the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge in the outer banks for safety concerns.

The bridge running over the Oregon Inlet on N.C. 12 was closed Tuesday.

NCDOT says routine sonar scanning of the bridge identified areas where too much sand has eroded from the support structure of the bridge. The bridge will remain closed until the department can bring in additional resources to inspect the bridge and make necessary repairs. NCDOT has declared a state of emergency as a way of expediting the process and steps are already underway to begin repair work.

“Closing the Bonner Bridge is necessary to keep all travelers safe, but we know it will have a devastating effect on the people who live along and visit the Outer Banks,” said NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. “We will work to safely reopen this vital lifeline quickly, and hope to be able to begin construction on a new bridge as soon as possible.”

The Bonner Bridge is the only highway access for vehicles between Hatteras Island and the mainland. Until it is reopened, the NCDOT Ferry Division will provide support to move people and cars across the Pamlico Sound.

All tolls currently in place on the Ocracoke-Swan Quarter and Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry routes will be waived for residents, emergency personnel and vendors while the bridge is closed and the emergency ferry route is in operation.

 Ferry Division officials expect the emergency ferry route to be up and running Wednesday morning.

A replacement plan for the bridge has been in the works for several years. NCDOT awarded a contract to a design-build team to replace the bridge in 2011. The replacement bridge was originally set to begin in early 2013, but was put on hold following a series of legal challenges by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

NCDOT has spent more than $56 million in necessary repairs, inspection and maintenance on the 50-year-old bridge since beginning the process to replace it more than two decades ago. Two additional repair projects on the Bonner Bridge, which total $2 million, needed to keep the bridge open, began this fall.

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