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Bonner Bridge repairs begin

Posted September 25, 2013

— The lifeline that connects mainland North Carolina to Hatteras Island is getting a long-overdue update. Work began Wednesday on the first of two projects to shore up the 50-year-old Herbert C. Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet.

First, a specially equipped truck from the North Carolina Department of Transportation drove the bridge to scan the deck for defects. Surveyors worked nearby, mapping the bridge. 

Engineers will compare the two data sets to see if the aging bridge shifts in stormy weather or strong currents.

"What we're doing is monitoring what the concrete is doing," explained Pablo Hernandez, a DOT engineer. "Our goal is structural integrity."

"We're looking for big movement," DOT engineer Keith Honeycutt added.

Below, boats carry equipment to monitor the inlet floor, mapping the sandy bottom around the bridge's supports. Strong currents can scour away sand and loosen those piers.

"We're trying to identify any scouring issues that may be developing," Honeycutt said. "There are a few areas we are monitoring to see if the hole is getting bigger, smaller or if it's moving."

During daytime hours, crews will post rolling lane closures on the bridge to allow workers a safe berth.

Work begins on Bonner Bridge across Oregon Inlet DOT begins work on Bonner Bridge updates

The bridge was supposed to have been replaced by now. In fact, the DOT awarded a $215 million contract to design and build a new bridge nearly two and a half years ago. But lawsuits questioning the environmental impact of the project have kept the construction tied up in court. Earlier this month, a federal judge ruled in favor of the DOT, but the project remains stalled until an administrative law judge considers the plan at the state level.

Meanwhile, DOT works to keep the current bridge safe. 

"We've done a lot of repairs to the footings, to the columns, to the underside of the bridge deck," Hernandez said.

But he knows a new bridge would be safer, stronger and more reliable.

"Just as everything evolves, you need to upgrade and provide that connection between Hatteras and the rest of the Outer Banks," he said. 

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  • Milkman Sep 26, 10:33 a.m.

    I'm glad they're saving the turtles as well (I'm actually a NEST volunteer), but what these people need to realize is that sometimes you need something like the Bonner Bridge to help do it.

  • Obamacare for everyone Sep 26, 8:37 a.m.

    Milkman, I for one am glad they're saving the turtles. They were here before us.

  • Milkman Sep 26, 8:18 a.m.

    Doesn't matter how it's paid for, it's if the environmentalists will cease blocking the project. What's funny is they won't care how many people are killed when it collapses, but when a sea turtle needs to get to the turtle rehab facility in Manteo and they can't get there in time, they'll scream why there isn't a bridge.

  • LovemyPirates Sep 25, 6:26 p.m.

    It's time to replace this bridge!

  • budbrande Sep 25, 5:30 p.m.

    So much money has been wasted maintaining the current bridge not to mention how much less it would have cost to replace twenty years ago compared to today!

  • pause to consider Sep 25, 5:23 p.m.

    "This bridge is going to collapse."

    Ah, but then we'd KNOW it has to be replaced! Oh, the wisdom of our courts and the environmentalists. The birds, clams and turtles are more important than people until someone dies when the bridge collapses.

  • chippers Sep 25, 5:22 p.m.

    I'm terrified of bridges these days. 50 years out over open salt water? Ticking time bomb.

  • ConservativeVoter Sep 25, 5:00 p.m.

    Toll the replacement bridge.

    Let the tourists pay for it.

  • Obamacare for everyone Sep 25, 4:53 p.m.

    I wouldn't ride across that thing on my bicycle. This bridge is going to collapse.