Fixing Hatteras bridge to start Friday
Posted December 5, 2013
Updated December 6, 2013
Buxton, N.C. — Dredging will begin Friday in the Oregon Inlet to shore up the base of Bonner Bridge, which state transportation officials closed Tuesday because of safety concerns.
The move comes one day after Gov. Pat McCrory's Thursday emergency declaration, which allowed the state to bypass the usual permitting process, clearing the way for the state Department of Transportation to hire Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Co. for the two-day process.
The declaration also allows the state to seek federal assistance and assets, such as advice or equipment from the Army Corps of Engineers, and McCrory has asked Secretary of Public Safety Frank Perry to seek federal reimbursement for repair costs.
The DOT already awarded a $1.6 million contract to Carolina Bridge Co. of Orangeburg, S.C., for the bridge repairs, but officials haven't laid out a timeline for the repair process, which involves layering interlocking pieces of concrete to create a 10- to 12-foot perimeter around the bridge's pilings and filling the area with sandbags.
"Safety will be the sole factor in determining when the Bonner Bridge reopens to traffic,” McCrory said.
Bonner Bridge is the only road access for vehicles between Hatteras Island and the mainland. DOT is operating an emergency ferry route between Stumpy Point and Rodanthe, and officials added two extra daily roundtrips late Thursday and early Friday to bring the daily total to 12.
Hatteras Island residents are learning to cope with the difficulty of getting to the mainland and back home, but it's not easy.
The Coast Guard had to help two people off the island early Thursday, including a woman in labor.
Later in the day, Maggie Smith said she worries about her sister, who has heart problems and needs regular trips to the mainland for blood work.
"She can't always catch the ferry. She doesn't drive," said Smith, who barely caught a Thursday afternoon ferry off the island.
Relying on ferries for deliveries also is pinching island businesses, including John Couch's auto parts store.
"If it is a bad weather day, we may not get a delivery," Couch said, calling Bonner Bridge "our lifeline."
Still, he said he backs the decision to close the bridge for repairs.
"You can't mess around with the safety and welfare of the public," he said. "If the bridge is bad, it is bad. So, close it down."
At Conner's Supermarket, Travis Salyers said he is working with the ferries to keep his shelves stocked with everything from Band-Aids to bell peppers. Just as important, he said, the state needs to keep the tourists coming to the island, even in the off-season.
"Number-wise, we could see probably a big drop," Salyers said.
When it was built in 1963, Bonner Bridge was designed to last 30 years. DOT began the process of trying to replace it in 1989 and awarded a contract of almost $216 million two years ago for construction of a parallel span.
Construction was set to begin earlier this year, but legal challenges have delayed that. Environmentalists want the state to build a 17-mile bridge over the Pamlico Sound, estimated to cost more than $1.1 billion, to spare the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.