Bonner Bridge repairs begin
Posted September 25, 2013
Dare County, N.C. — 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.
The bridge was supposed to have been replaced by now.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.