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DOT secretary: Hatteras bridge 'standing on borrowed time'

Posted December 4, 2013
Updated December 5, 2013

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— A day after state transportation officials closed the Bonner Bridge amid safety concerns, they said Wednesday that they need Gov. Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency so they can bring a dredge to the Outer Banks quickly to help speed bridge repairs.

The Department of Transportation has already awarded a $1.6 million contract to Carolina Bridge Company Inc. of Orangeburg, S.C., to fix the bridge, which provides the only land link to Hatteras Island.

Routine sonar scanning found excessive underwater erosion around some of the bridge supports, forcing the DOT to immediately close the span. Divers sent down in recent days found more than half the sand and earth that should be around some of the bridge supports was missing. A gaping 25- by 150-foot hole is around some of the underwater pillars, officials said.

Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said Wednesday that engineers feared the bridge would collapse without immediate intervention.

"When the engineers told me it was unsafe, I made the decision to close the bridge," Tata said. "This bridge is standing on borrowed time."

The move left many Hatteras Island residents scrambling.

"We are stuck," Lucie Nuzzo said.

Nuzzo and her husband run a business on the island, but her children attend school on the mainland. The Bonner Bridge closure cut the family's lives in two.

"I found out at 3:15 (p.m. Tuesday) the bridge was going to close," she said. "I rushed, and they did not let me through with three kids in the car – hungry, no clothes, I mean, I am still in the same clothes from yesterday."

Bonner Bridge closed Bridge closure disrupts lives on Outer Banks

A DOT truck is parked at either end of the bridge, and barricades block entrance to it.

Meagan McElwain said she and other residents have been aware of concerns about the bridge's safety for a while.

"It is not too stable for people to go and cross, but it keeps passing. I think it is time for it to go ahead and get ready to get fixed," McElwain said.

The DOT's Ferry Division launched an emergency ferry service to shuttle people and vehicles between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe until the bridge reopens. That has left people sitting in line for an hour or so for the two-hour ferry ride to or from the island.

At full capacity on a full schedule, the emergency ferries can handle 760 cars a day. As many as 3,000 vehicles used the bridge each day at this time of year.

The Ferry Division also added a daily round-trip run between Ocracoke and Swan Quarter to ease congestion on the emergency ferries.

Resident Greg Compher said he has had to use a ferry in past crises, and it's not convenient.

"It's kind of a pain. It was foggy, (so they) could not run the ferry. If it is windy, couldn't run the ferry," Compher said. "It is a big inconvenience."

While there are medical facilities on Hatteras Island, Dare County Manager Bobby Outten said a large, unexpected emergency could cause problems.

"We would have to figure out, can we get a boat, can we do something different, or is it severe enough we need to dispatch a helicopter?" Outten said.

Tata wouldn't give an estimate for when the bridge would be repaired and reopened.

As part of this emergency repairs, crews will use sandbags and 4-foot-tall A-Jacks to provide support to the bridge pilings. A-jacks locked together will form a perimeter around the support structure, and crews will then fill the perimeter with sandbags, officials said. The process will be completed three times, providing 10 to 12 feet of protection to the pilings and allowing sand to collect naturally over the supports.

Once the bridge reopens, more sensors will be placed on it to measure its stress, officials said.

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  • elisamwright Dec 12, 2013

    all this debate is pointless... the bridge wouldn't be needed if they'd just stop dredging! the inlet would naturally close up and then all that would be required is some gravel and asphalt! lot's cheaper than building another bridge! plus, letting Oregon Inlet close would do 2 things, allow brackish water largemouth bass return to albemarle sound (once the site of the bassmasters classic (huge tourist draw) and force more water out Hatteras and Ocracoke inlets making them deeper and more viable alternatives for navigation - just move the fishing center to Hatteras and/or Ocracoke which are far nicer locations! With high-speed sports fishermen (the kind that operate now from the O.I. fishing center) Hatteras would mean a whopping 15-20 minute longer trip to the Gulf Stream and Ocracoke about 30 to 40 minutes longer!

  • westernwake1 Dec 10, 2013

    "So someone hacked into the skeptic science website and posted a article with no evidence stating that Al Gore is a contributor, and John Cook is a fraud. You, are willing to accept this as evidence, someone who illegally hacked into a website under a pseudonym as fact, with no evidence to backup their claims.... This is a criminal Westernwake." - Bill Brasky

    According to the climate alarmists it is perfectly acceptable if someone hacks into Heartland or Watts and posts everything all over the web. However if someone hacks into Skeptical Science or East Anglia and does the same thing - well then it's a crime.

    The reality is that all the incidents are crimes, but the police don't really care to investigate them when there is no finanical loss, no national security issues, and/or no child porn issues at stake.

    John Cook is a cartoonist. He never worked a day in a science field. A ungraduate physics degree is useless if you never use it. He has no Masters or PhD.

  • Bill Brasky Dec 6, 2013

    Westernwake,

    Not sure where you are going with this. So someone hacked into the skeptic science website and posted a article with no evidence stating that Al Gore is a contributor, and John Cook is a fraud. You, are willing to accept this as evidence, someone who illegally hacked into a website under a pseudonym as fact, with no evidence to backup their claims.... This is a criminal Westernwake.

    If you don't feel that John Cook has a science background look him up. He is a physics graduate from the University of Queensland, and majored in solar physics in his post graduate honors year. It's safe to say he knows quite a bit on the subject that he presents on his website.

  • westernwake1 Dec 6, 2013

    "About Skeptical Science - This site was created by John Cook. I'm not a climatologist or a scientist but a self employed cartoonist and web programmer by trade." -

    http://web.archive.org/web/20071213172906/www.skepticalscience.com/page.php?p=3

    Skeptical Science hacked, private user details publicly posted online -

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Skeptical-Science-hacked-private-user-details-publicly-posted-online.html

    Yes, the hack (and you can read all the info online) provided a wealth of information about Skeptical Science's funding (from Al Gore's GIM) and organization of a "crusher crew" that attempts to deliberately 'drown out' those who do not accept their alarmist positions.

  • westernwake1 Dec 6, 2013

    Skeptical Science: The Partnership with Al Gore

    http://www.populartechnology.net/2012/09/skeptical-science-partnership-with-al.html

  • Bill Brasky Dec 6, 2013

    "Many of the papers at the science.nasa.gov websites by scientists demonstrate that CO2 has a cooling effect on the earth. For example this quote in an article by Dr. Tony Phillips titled 'Solar Storm Dumps Gigawatts into Earth's Upper Atmosphere'."

    The article that you posted explains the effects of solar flares on our upper atmosphere and how CO2 can reflect the energy. The article however, does not go into human produced polution (CO2) and the effect that CO2 enclosed in our atmosphere has on the climate, which according to scientists worldwide is causing global warming.

  • westernwake1 Dec 6, 2013

    Let's make it clear one more time.

    Scientists who are employed by NASA post papers and articles on the science.nasa.gov website.

    Graduate students at the California Institute of Technology post information on the climate.nasa.gov website. This website does not reflect the opinions of NASA employees.

    Many of the papers at the science.nasa.gov websites by scientists demonstrate that CO2 has a cooling effect on the earth. For example this quote in an article by Dr. Tony Phillips titled 'Solar Storm Dumps Gigawatts into Earth's Upper Atmosphere'.

    "For the three day period, March 8th through 10th, the thermosphere absorbed 26 billion kWh of energy. Infrared radiation from CO2 and NO, the two most efficient coolants in the thermosphere, re-radiated 95% of that total back into space."

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/22mar_saber/

  • Bill Brasky Dec 5, 2013

    "I will also note that the science posted on the main NASA site indicates that increased CO2 cools the earth (not heats it) by re-radiating solar energy away from the earth."

    Nope, NASA clearly shows CO2 is causing the Earth to heat up....

    http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators

  • Bill Brasky Dec 5, 2013

    "How can I explain this more clearly - The climate.nasa.gov is created and maintained by the California Institute of Technology'. They are funded by the controversial NASA Goddard Institute of Space and declared to be the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This university lab does NO research on jet propulsion, only on climate science - also funded by federal government grants."

    Do you not understand that NASA officially believes Climate Change is occurring? Not just the California Institute of Technology? Yes, there were ex-employees, mostly engineers...again..lol, that disagreed, perhaps politically, or these employees were not involved in the Earth Science sector of NASA.

    However, NASA as a whole believes Climate Change is occurring and I even proved one of the main person's who questioned NASA's involvement John Grunsfeld, former director, actually believes in Man made global warming.

  • westernwake1 Dec 5, 2013

    "Wow, even your comments don't support your original post "NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory" I emphasize NASA's. But... let go back your your original post stating the information was not of NASA's. If you go to the below link you will see NASA Goddard institute of Space studies listed as the source. You are unbelievable." - Bill Brasky

    How can I explain this more clearly - The climate.nasa.gov is created and maintained by the California Institute of Technology'. They are funded by the controversial NASA Goddard Institute of Space and declared to be the NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This university lab does NO research on jet propulsion, only on climate science - also funded by federal government grants.

    Science directly provided by NASA is posted on the science.nasa.gov website.

    I will also note that the science posted on the main NASA site indicates that increased CO2 cools the earth (not heats it) by re-radiating solar energy away from the earth.

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