NAGS HEAD, N.C. (WNCT) – After years of delays, residents and visitors along the Outer Banks can finally see progress on the $246 million Bonner Bridge replacement in Dare County.
That’s not just good news for the OBX, but for all of the Tar Heel State.
Take a drive along NC Highway 12 at Oregon Inlet and you can see it. You can hear it. The sound of construction is music to the ears of North Carolina DOT resident engineer Pablo Hernandez.
“It’s been such a long road for me personally to get involved with this project,” said Pablo Hernandez, NCDOT resident engineer. “I first came to work with North Carolina DOT in 1998 working on another project with the idea that I would transition this project in early 2000’s. And then to be kind of on the sidelines for this project for those many years while it goes through its various planning and lawsuit challenges, it is just now starting to hit me that we’re really doing this.”
Eighty percent of the visitors who come to North Carolina visit the Outer Banks. Two million cars a year use the current Bonner Bridge, nearly 5,500 a day. But time has not been kind to the 2.4 mile bridge.
Built in 1963 to replace a ferry to and from Hatteras Island, the lifespan was supposed to be just 30 years. 53 years of hurricanes, erosion and heavy traffic and you’re left with an aging, crumbling structure.
“Public safety is the number one reason we put in the urgency to make this happen,” said Gov. Pat McCrory, (R) North Carolina.
Governor Pat McCrory was there in March to help officially break ground on construction.
Besides making life safer for Outer Banks residents, McCroy said the impacts of the new bridge will span the state, from Manteo to Murphy.
“It’s not going to just impact Dare County and this region, it’s going to have a very positive impact on the rest of this state,” said McCrory. “It’s going to help bring more travel and tourism. It’s going to help this fisherman in this area.”
Upon completion in 2019, the life expectancy of the new bridge is 100 years. Hernandez credits that to advances in engineering and stronger and more corrosion resistant building materials.
“It’s going to be a process,” said Hernandez. “And really what we’re trying to do is, we’re essentially trying to build a moving factory. We are building lots of bridge, just not one or two spans of bridge. We’re building 81 spans of bridge”
They’re working out in the middle of the water right now. So hopefully within the next six months there will be much taller structures out in the water, as well as on the north side. And, of course, on the south side you’ll see the actually bridge begin to take shape with the roadway surface. And hopefully everyone can visualize this three pieces of bridge linked together to form the new bridge.
Piece by piece, the future of the Outer Banks is on the way. And now, people aren’t just talking about the future, they can finally see it.
“The people in this area are the most resilient people that I’ve ever met,” said McCrory. “And they’ve had to endure a wait that was far too long.”
And if you’re headed to the Outer Banks anytime soon for some R&R, the construction shouldn’t affect you.
There will be no daytime lane closures from now until September 15. That happens only at night Monday through Thursday.