Local News

Battle over Bonner Bridge reaches appeals court

Posted May 13, 2014

— The latest twist in the tortuous plan to replace the Bonner Bridge took place Tuesday in Virginia, where a three-judge panel heard arguments from the North Carolina Department of Transportation and environmental groups.

In September, a lower court judge ruled that the state's plan to replace the 50-year-old span with a parallel structure at an estimated cost of $216 million should go forward.

An attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center told the judges that the state has not considered alternatives that would better protect the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Attorney Julie Youngman said, "The bridge is standing like a gun barrel pointing into the refuge," and that the state's plan would violate the National Environmental Policy Act.

Youngman said the lack of specificity about further plans to replace or reinforce 15 miles of N.C. Highway 12 also worry her clients. 

"The sky is literally the limit," she said.

Arguing for the Federal Highway Administration, lawyer Robert Lundman said that the environmental analysis has long been done for the N.C. 12 corridor, but the state's plans remain unclear because of the area's unique geography.

"It's hard to make this choice because of the dynamic nature of this island," he said. "Land is moving, no one knows for sure where the next storm is going to hit, where a breach might or might not occur."

The environmental groups want a longer, potentially more costly bridge across Pamlico Sound that would avoid the treacherous Oregon Inlet and bypass Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge and sections of N.C. 12 that are regularly washed out.

It could be weeks or even months before the judges issue their ruling. 

Timeline: Bridge in Troubled Water


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  • Benjamin Wright May 16, 2014
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    WRAL need to do an investigation into what the total cost of the Outerbanks are to our state. We have cost associated with the bridge, the inlet, trying to keep highway 12 above water, beach renourishment, unemployment being paid to those who work seasonal positons. This isn't the economic engine of our state but the economic sinkhole. As much as I feel for the citizens of the outer banks this fight isn't for them, it's for them it's for the developers and the oil companies. If you doubt that then lets start making a list of how many other communities we could stimulate economic turn around in with this type of outlay in tax dollars. We all know why the state is limiting sea level predictions to 30 years, it's because for any greater length of time than that the new bridge will be unquestionably unsustainable. For a party which talks about responsible spending the Republicans are clearly failing to take the lead. How far has the party of Teddy Roosevelt fallen.