State, environmental groups agree on replacement for Bonner Bridge

Posted June 15, 2015

— The North Carolina Department of Transportation announced Monday that it had reached an agreement with environmental groups to replace the aging Herbert C. Bonner Bridge with a new, parallel bridge over Oregon Inlet.

The agreement comes after decades of studies, plans and legal wrangling over the fate of the bridge, which was built in 1963 and designed to last only 30 years. Since 1989, NCDOT has been working to replace the crucial link between Hatteras Island and the mainland, butting heads along the way with the Southern Environmental Law Center and other defenders of the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

The state planned a new, $216 million bridge parallel to the existing span designed to better withstand erosion, but construction was halted in 2013 when SELC sued.

"Their plan is going to turn a rare and unique wildlife refuge into a 50-year construction zone," Julie Youngman, a senior SELC attorney, said at the time.

On Monday, she expressed satisfaction with the compromise, especially a promise to consider options that would move vulnerable portions of N.C. Highway 12 out of the southern half of the refuge and into Pamlico Sound.

"We are pleased that NCDOT and its partner agencies will consider additional options for N.C. 12 that will provide safe, reliable transportation by avoiding the areas where erosion and washouts shut down the road in its current location. This is a win-win for the Refuge and everyone who relies on N.C. 12,” Youngman said.

The SELC agreed to drop both state and federal lawsuits once work has ceased on a 2.4-mile bridge being built within the Pea Island Refuge.

Timeline: Bridge in Troubled Water

Scroll through the timeline or click the arrows above to navigate the history of the Bonner Bridge.


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