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McCrory, state officials break ground on long-awaited Bonner Bridge project

Posted March 8

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— After years of negotiations, Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday officially broke ground on the project to replace the 52-year-old Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet.

Preliminary work, which included clearing vegetation at the south end of the bridge along both sides of N.C. Highway 12, began in February, but McCrory said Tuesday that the groundbreaking represents a long-awaited milestone for people who live, work and visit the Outer Banks.

"This is a historic moment to be able to finally put our shovels in the ground and say that construction of a new, 21st century Bonner Bridge is underway," McCrory said in a statement.

"I want to thank my incredible team for helping make this day possible. I am proud to say to the people of the Outer Banks that your lifeline, a new Bonner Bridge, is on its way, and it will be engineered and built to last for generations to come."

The new bridge is designed to have a 100-year life span and is scheduled to open to traffic in November 2018, officials said. The overall project, including the demolition of the existing bridge, is scheduled to be completed in September 2019.

Another benefit of the new bridge, according to state officials, is that the high rise will be 3,500 feet long and have seven navigational spans, each averaging about 300 feet in width.

That will provide more options for navigation under the bridge.

Bonner Bridge history

Built in 1963, the existing bridge replaced an hour-long ferry ride over Oregon Inlet that could not operate in inclement weather or carry the growing population of islanders and tourists who sought to enjoy the southern Outer Banks.

Today, the bridge carries tens of thousands of residents and visitors daily, helping support the state's tourism industry and providing a critical evacuation route.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation began working with the local community, as well as state and federal resource agencies, on plans to replace the existing bridge with a parallel one in 1989.

After reaching agreement on how and where to build the bridge, a contract was signed in 2011 for the design and construction of the new bridge, but construction was stalled by litigation.

In June 2015, after four years of delay, DOT reached a settlement agreement with environmental groups that allowed the state to move forward with replacing the Bonner Bridge.


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  • William James Mar 10, 2016
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    . I'm sure someone has done a cost/profit analysis, just like one could be done on 50 other infrastructure projects across this state, my point wasn't class warfare simply to point out there is always plenty of tax dollars for projects near and around wealthy communities. Also, ECU has a ton of data showing that the NC Coast line is narrowing and storm damage to fix bridges and roads will only increase. Just saying, I've seen them rebuild roads over and over along the coast, yet pot holes on 40.

  • Matt Nickeson Mar 8, 2016
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    Actually, this is a very good investment for the state of NC. The total NC economic impact directly attributable to tourism, which is reliant upon access, in Dare county far outstrips the cost of this project when amortized over the lifespan of the bridge even considering the most conservative impact figures. I'll save the statistics as they are easily found by searching the internet, many economic studies are available conducted by a multitude of agencies. If this net positive contribution to the NC economy were to disappear then you certainly wouldn't see any raises any time soon. I wouldn't disagree with the merit of pay increases for Hwy Patrol or teachers but your class warfare rhetoric is the equivalent of cutting your nose off to spite your face.

  • William James Mar 8, 2016
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    So, there isn't any money in the state budget to give teachers a raise, Hwy Patrol their step increase, or other state employees and the majority of NC is below the national poverty line, yet as if by magic they have 250 million to 1+billion squirreled away to rebuild a bridge to an area with only a few thousand "rich residents" and hand full of visitor destinations! Also, why did the old bridge only last 30yrs, I've seen wooden bridges last longer. For a billion dollars you could ferry visitors by puffy daddy yachts or Miami Vice Cigar boats! Just saying, no one would ever approve a billion dollar anything to built to poor peoples homes! Much less state funds.